What Is Fibromyalgia?

By albert
Reviewed: Dr. Gromatzky
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Fibromyalgia, also called fibromyalgia syndrome is a condition that presents with aches and pains in many parts of the body. Fibromyalgia also causes sleep problems and fatigue that does not go away with rest, and may make its victim oversensitive to such stimuli as hot or cold temperature, pressure, bright lights and noise.

Fibromyalgia is usually diagnosed in people aged between 35 and 45 years, although some of the symptoms may have started much earlier. The condition affects more women than men and is more likely to occur in those who are obese, have another rheumatic condition like arthritis, have had trauma affecting the brain or spinal cord, or are suffering from emotional stress. People who smoke also have a higher risk.


1. Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Symptoms of fibromyalgia include a persistent dull pain that affects many parts of the body and goes on for three months or longer. The pain affects both sides of the body and occurs in both the vertical and horizontal halves of the body. Most people with fibromyalgia also experience chronic fatigue even when they spent a significant amount of time sleeping.

Fibromyalgia victims may also experience other sleep issues such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. Additionally, they may suffer from impaired attention and other cognitive problems including poor concentration and poor focus. The condition may also occur together with conditions such as migraine and other headaches, irritable bowel disease, and temporomandibular joint pain.


2. Causes of Fibromyalgia

The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown although medical experts think that the condition has physical, psychological, and neurological linkages. This means that how you feel can worsen the pain of fibromyalgia.

The reverse may also be true, such that the pain can cause stress or dampen your mood. But unlike the pain caused by physical injury including tissue damage, fibromyalgia pain has no clear cause. In other words, the part of the body affected by pain is neither injured nor damaged. Nevertheless, the pain is as bad as if there were a physical cause.


3. Brain and the Nervous System

In a person with fibromyalgia, the brain and the nervous system in general would appear to initiate the feeling of pain in various parts of the body. According to medical experts, this happens because of problems with the way the brain processes stimuli from such parts of the body. It would appear that the signals exchanged between the affected part of the body, and the brain, are not representative of any physical stimuli.

Additionally, the reaction to any stimuli in the affected parts of the body is exaggerated such that a little pressure can bring about a lot of pain. This makes it difficult to manage fibromyalgia pain. Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition.


4. Fibromyalgia and Chronic Diseases

Fibromyalgia is associated with many other conditions. It is unclear how these conditions are linked to fibromyalgia, if one triggers the other or if they have a similar cause. Still, people with fibromyalgia usually have some other condition. If you have any other condition, and especially if you are a woman of middle age, it makes sense to watch out for symptoms of fibromyalgia.

The conditions include migraine and tension headaches, which affect about 40 percent of the people with fibromyalgia, mood disorders, which affect about 50 percent of people with fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome, which affects about two-thirds of people with fibromyalgia. Other conditions that are common in people with fibromyalgia include lupus, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, endometriosis, and restless leg syndrome.


5. Complications of Fibromyalgia

It is advisable to commence treatment for fibromyalgia as soon as possible for better long-term relief. If the condition is left untreated for too long, when treatment is finally started, it might not work as well because the condition will have advanced with some symptoms taking on a permanent nature.

The brain of a person with fibromyalgia tends to process pain differently compared to other people’s brains. This usually means that such a person can experience serious pain for no reason. When the condition is not managed from early on, it might not be possible to control the pain later on. Other complications of fibromyalgia include anxiety and major depression, and worsening of rheumatic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, lupus, and spondylitis. These complications may also lead to injuries, suicides, suicide attempts, and lengthy hospitalization.


6. Disease Process

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that affects muscles and other soft tissues like tendons. It presents with pain in many parts of the body, including both sides of the upper and lower parts of the body. The pain, which is usually worse in the morning, mainly affects the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the neck, back, shoulders, and the hips.

While fibromyalgia may occur together with a condition like arthritis, which causes joint pain, fibromyalgia pain only affects connective tissues. Fibromyalgia also presents with fatigue of varying severity, sleep difficulties, poor concentration, poor memory, nervousness, pins and needles, and headaches. The presence of a number of these signs may indicate that you have fibromyalgia.


7. Diet and Lifestyle to Ease Fibromyalgia

Some dietary and lifestyle adjustments can help you get relief from fibromyalgia symptoms. Beneficial dietary changes include avoiding alcohol, caffeine drinks, and spicy foods before going to bed. These food items can interfere with your sleep such that you don?t get adequate sleep at night.

Note that enough sleep every night can help relieve fibromyalgia symptoms. Engaging in regular physical exercise, going to bed at the same time every night, massage, taking a warm bath before going to bed, and listening to relaxing music can help you to sleep better at night and thus prepare your body for the activities of the next day. It is also necessary to avoid stressful situations whenever possible.


8. Diagnosis

Fibromyalgia is a difficult condition to diagnose because it can present with symptoms that mirror those of other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and hypothyroidism. Additionally, there are no laboratory tests, scans, or X-rays that can help reach a fibromyalgia diagnosis. If a doctor ordered for any of these tests and the patient does not have any of the other conditions, the results would be negative. This is the reason why many people with fibromyalgia go for long periods of time before they get the correct diagnosis.

Still, healthcare professionals with experience of managing fibromyalgia patients may order for these tests to rule out the other conditions. Also, in recent years, guidelines have been developed for carrying out diagnosis for fibromyalgia. These include factors like chronic pain that goes on for three months or longer in different parts of the body, fatigue, and cognitive problems including poor focus and concentration.


9. Treatment

There is no specific treatment that gets rid of fibromyalgia. But your doctor can prescribe a treatment routine that can help manage the various symptoms of the condition and make life more comfortable. Treatment routines include medication, physical therapy, and psychotherapy. Medications such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, codeine, and tramadol are used for the management of pain in person’s with fibromyalgia.

Amitriptyline or similar antidepressants may be used to help patients to sleep better. Physiotherapy and occupational therapy may be recommended to improve physical health while psychological therapy is used to help with the psychological aspects of fibromyalgia. It is worth to note that the earlier a patient commences treatment, the higher the chances of positive results.


10. Long-Term Outlook

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that can worsen if a patient does not commence treatment early. On the other hand, a patient who begins treatment early can lead a reasonably normal life with much less pain. However, all the available management methods can do is to reduce pain and improve the quality of life.

The condition does not go away. Still, fibromyalgia is not a death sentence, and many of its victims carry on with their lives once the condition is diagnosed and they are put on treatment. Additionally, fibromyalgia is not a progressive disease such that once a patient commences treatment, the condition does not get worse.


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