You hurt all over, and you frequently feel exhausted. Even after numerous tests, your doctor can't find anything specifically wrong with you. If this sounds familiar, you may have fibromyalgia according to the Mayo Clinic. Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain in your muscles, ligaments and tendons, as well as fatigue and multiple tender points — places on your body where slight pressure causes pain. Fibromyalgia occurs in about 2% of the population in the United States. Women are much more likely to develop the disorder than are men, and the risk of fibromyalgia increases with age. Fibromyalgia symptoms often begin after a physical or emotional trauma, but in many cases there appears to be no triggering event.
According to YourTotalHealth at iVillage.com, Fibromyalgia can make everyday tasks difficult and can even cause insomnia and depression. While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, learning how to manage your pain and fatigue is the key to living a full and active life. Fibromyalgia is a chronic musculoskeletal syndrome in which the central nervous system translates normally nonpainful stimuli into pain. A range of symptoms may occur, including widespread and localized pain, fatigue, sleep problems, and mood disturbances such as depression. These symptoms vary in intensity and come and go over time. Certain conditions, such as poor sleep, physical activity and anxiety, may aggravate the symptoms. Though fibromyalgia is not a progressive or life-threatening condition, it impairs quality of life. Patients often have other conditions including migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, TMJ disorder, or restless leg syndrome. Fibromyalgia mainly affects women. Its cause or causes are not known. There are many theories, including abnormalities in brain chemicals, infections, trauma and genetics.
Laboratory and imaging tests cannot identify the condition according to YourTotalHealth. The American College of Rheumatology has established two criteria for diagnosis: widespread pain and the presence of 11 of 18 specified tender areas known as trigger points. There is no known cure for fibromyalgia, but the symptoms can be treated. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved one medication, an anticonvulsant, specifically to treat fibromyalgia. Also, antidepressants and analgesics may also relieve symptoms. Nutrition, exercise and sleep therapy can help. Some patients benefit from complementary treatments such as massage, acupuncture, relaxation techniques, or biofeedback.
According to WebMD, symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
--Chronic muscle pain, muscle spasms or tightness, and leg cramps
--Moderate or severe fatigue and decreased energy
--Insomnia or waking up feeling just as tired as when you went to sleep
--Stiffness upon waking or after staying in one position for too long
--Difficulty remembering, concentrating, and performing simple mental tasks
--Abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and constipation alternating with diarrhea (irritable bowel syndrome)
--Tension or migraine headaches
--Jaw and facial tenderness
--Sensitivity to one or more of the following: odors, noise, bright lights, medications, certain foods, and cold
--Feeling anxious or depressed
--Numbness or tingling in the face, arms, hands, legs, or feet
--Increase in urinary urgency or frequency (irritable bladder)
--Reduced tolerance for exercise and muscle pain after exercise
--A feeling of swelling (without actual swelling) in the hands and feet
--Painful menstrual periods
According to the National Fibromyalgia Association, Currently there are no laboratory tests available for diagnosing fibromyalgia. Doctors must rely on patient histories, self-reported symptoms, a physical examination and an accurate manual tender point examination. This exam is based on the standardized American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria. Proper implementation of the exam determines the presence of multiple tender points at characteristic locations. It is estimated that it takes an average of five years for an FM patient to get an accurate diagnosis. Many doctors are still not adequately informed or educated about FM. Laboratory tests often prove negative and many FM symptoms overlap with those of other conditions, thus leading to extensive investigative costs and frustration for both the doctor and patient. Another essential point that must be considered is that the presence of other diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, does not rule out an FM diagnosis. Fibromyalgia is not a diagnosis of exclusion and must be diagnosed by its own characteristic features.
According to YourTotalHealth, physicians often use fibromyalgia as a classic example of a central pain state, in which the cause of the pain cannot be identified in the local pain site and most of the processes resulting in pain occur at the level of the spinal cord and brain. However, the pain is not “imagined” or psychological. Some form of input from the pain site is required – even if it is as common as a touch, light or sound. In patients with fibromyalgia, these stimuli are misinterpreted as painful events. Fibromyalgia is considered a benign condition. It is not degenerative or deforming, nor is it life-threatening. Though the pain may be severe and may significantly reduce quality of life, fibromyalgia causes no lasting tissue damage. The symptoms associated with fibromyalgia may seriously affect competitive employment. Though most patients remain in the workforce, some claim disability. Doing so can be difficult, even when physicians agree that symptoms are severe enough to warrant aid.
Although fibromyalgia has been recognized by the Social Security Administration as a medically determinable impairment, a general misunderstanding and lack of education regarding it may cause many organizations and individuals to disregard the condition. The Arthritis Foundation reports that disability rates among fibromyalgia patients may be as high as 44%, according to YourTotalHealth. Fibromyalgia is the second most common disorder seen by rheumatologists and among the most common causes of widespread, chronic pain. According to the Arthritis Foundation, fibromyalgia affects an estimated 2% of the United States population – about 3.5 million Americans. Men and women of all races and ages, including children and the elderly, may be affected, but fibromyalgia occurs most often in women over the age of 30. According to the American College of Rheumatology, about 80% to 90% of those affected by fibromyalgia are women. Though uncertainty remains regarding the underlying cause, diagnosis and optimal treatment exist for fibromyalgia. Many professionals and researchers are making efforts to improve the quality of life for patients with fibromyalgia. Better ways to diagnose and treat this condition are being researched. In addition, remaining active as much as possible is a must for fibromyalgia patients.
Finding the right physician is crucial in treating fibromyalgia according to YourTotalHealth. An empathetic physician who understands the diagnosis and treatment of fibromyalgia and is willing to listen to and work with the patient is important. A family physician may send a fibromyalgia patient to a rheumatologist. Patients’ self-education is a key to better results. Individuals are encouraged to keep communication with their physicians open. It may help to make a list of everything that needs to be discussed and bring it along to appointments. All treatment options, including those individuals can do on their own, should be discussed with a physician. Also, proper exercise has been shown to decrease symptoms of fibromyalgia and reduce severity of symptoms. Striving for restful sleep is important in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Patients are advised to consult their physician before considering any complementary or alternative therapy.
Many fibromyalgia patients have trouble coping with their disorder. There are many means to help an individual cope with fibromyalgia or any other chronic illness. Psychological counseling may also help. Additionally, Fibromyalgia support groups can provide important information, encouragement and positive feelings.
Although Fibromyalgia is not life-threatening, it does interrupt and affect the quality of life when someone suffers from its symptoms. Getting the correct diagnosis by a medical provider can help assist in dealing with FM, and learning more about how to cope with it can be beneficial. Understanding how Fibromyalgia affects your body can alert you to a greater awareness of treatment options and lifestyle changes that will help ease the pain.
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