What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia (fye-bro-my-AL-gee-ah) is an arthritis-related condition
that is characterized by generalized muscular pain and fatigue. The
term “fibromyalgia” means pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons.
This condition is referred to as a “syndrome” because it’s a set of
signs and symptoms that occur together.
Fibromyalgia is especially confusing and often misunderstood condition.
Because its symptoms are quite common and laboratory tests are
generally normal, people with fibromyalgia were once told that their
condition was “all in their head.” However, medical studies have proven
that fibromyalgia does indeed exist, and it is estimated to affect about 2 percent of the U.S. population today.
In 1990, the American College of Rheumatology, the official body of
doctors who treat arthritis and related conditions, finally legitimized
fibromyalgia in the medical community by presenting its criteria for diagnosing it. It is diagnosed when the you display the following symptoms:
A history of widespread pain (pain on both sides of the body and above
and below the waist) that is present for at least three months
Pain in at least 11 of 18 tender-point sites.
Although no two people with fibromyalgia experience the same symptoms
the exact same way, people with fibromyalgia do experience similar
Pain is the most prominent symptom. It usually involves “tender points”
on the body where pain seems the greatest.
Fatigue and sleep disturbances occur in about 90% of people who have
Depression and anxiety is common in many people with fibromyalgia.
Cognitive difficulties or fibro fog can occur, characterized by feelings
of confusion, lapses in memory, word mix-ups and difficulty
Migraine headaches, abdominal pain, bloating or alternating
constipation and diarrhea (irritable bowel syndrome), skin color changes, tingling limbs, jaw pain (temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
disorder), and restless leg syndrome are common
How Is It Diagnosed?
The difficulty with diagnosing someone with fibromyalgia is that there
is no clear-cut test to determine fibromyalgia. No evidence of it
appears on X-rays or in laboratory test results. There is no
diagnostic marker in the blood. People with fibromyalgia often look
healthy and have no outward signs of pain or fatigue.
Instead fibromyalgia is diagnosed by the identification of symptoms –
the presence of widespread pain in combination with tenderness at
specific locations, and chronic fatigue – and the exclusion of other
conditions. Doctors use laboratory tests to rule out other
conditions with similar symptoms, such as thyroid conditions.
The diagnostic process can take years, partly due to the fact that
fibromyalgia remains unfamiliar to many people, including doctors.
Fortunately, a greater understanding of fibromyalgia now exists within the medical community. Finding the right doctor can help
expedite diagnosis. A rheumatologist or other doctor who is very familiar with this condition is important.
What Causes It?
No one knows what causes fibromyalgia. Researchers speculate that many
different factors, alone or in ombination, may cause fibromyalgia.
For example, factors such as An infectious illness
Studies have suggested that people with fibromyalgia have abnormal
levels of several of the different chemicals that help transmit and
amplify pain signals to and from the brain. Whether these
abnormalities are a cause or a result of fibromyalgia is unknown.
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