What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a long-term, chronic disease. It causes muscle pain, joint pain and fatigue. Pain can come and go. There is no known cause, although certain factors such as stress and genetics can predispose a person to the disease. Although there is no cure, medications, lifestyle changes and other therapies provide relief.

How common is fibromyalgia?

It is estimated that 4 million Americans (2% of the US population) suffer from fibromyalgia.

Who could have fibromyalgia?

Anyone can get fibromyalgia, including children. Women have twice chances as likely as men to have fibromyalgia. Symptoms often appear in middle age. Up to 20% of patients with other chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and sarcoidosis may also have fibromyalgia.

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

Medical experts do not know why some people develop fibromyalgia. It sometimes works in families. Certain conditions or events can cause symptoms, such as:

  • Stressors such as: being born prematurely, traumatic life events such as abuse, accidents.
  • Medical conditions such as viral infections or any other illness.
  • Anxiety, depression, other mood disorders, PTSD.
  • Bad sleep.
  • Lack of exercise.

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

Generalized muscle aches and joint pain as well as fatigue and poor sleep are the defining symptoms of fibromyalgia. The disease affects people differently. You may also meet:

  • Anxiety or depression.
  • Digestive problems, including diarrhea or constipation.
  • Pain in the face or jaw (temporomandibular disorders).
  • Headaches or migraines.
  • Memory problems.
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet.

What triggers a fibromyalgia attack?

Some things can cause fibromyalgia symptoms (a flare-up), especially those that increase stress levels. These include:

  • Changes in daily routines.
  • Dietary changes or poor diet.
  • Hormonal fluctuations.
  • Lack of sleep.
  • Stressors such as work, illness, emotional stress.
  • Treatment changes.
  • Change in sleep patterns (for example, shift work).
  • Changes in weather or temperature.

How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?

There is no test that can definitively diagnose fibromyalgia. The diagnosis of fibromyalgia is clinical based on your symptoms and your physical exam. Baseline blood tests are recommended to rule out other causes of fatigue such as anemia or thyroid disease. The diagnosis is based on your family and medical history combined with your symptoms.
People with fibromyalgia tend to be deeply sensitive to pain which most people wouldn’t mind. Your provider can assess the number of tender points or areas of your body that are very sensitive to touch. For a diagnosis, generalized pain must be present for three months along with fatigue and other symptoms such as difficulty with memory and concentration, poor sleep, symptoms of depression, and irritable syndrome.

How is fibromyalgia managed or treated?

There is no cure for fibromyalgia. These medications and lifestyle changes can improve symptoms:

  • Antidepressants.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy.
  • Improved sleep habits.
  • Prescription and over-the-counter pain medications.
  • Stress management techniques.
  • Strength training and exercise.

What are the complications of fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is not life threatening. Still, it can be difficult to live with chronic pain and fatigue. If fibromyalgia is left untreated, your job and daily activities are harder to do.

How can I prevent fibromyalgia?

You can’t really take steps to prevent it because experts don’t know what causes fibromyalgia. However, it is still a good idea to:

  • Minimize stress.
  • Eat a nutritious diet.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Manage arthritis, depression, or other conditions.
  • Stay active and exercise regularly.


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