Fibromyalgia: A disease characterized by chronic pain, stiffness, and tenderness of muscles, tendons, and joints, without detectable inflammation. Fibromyalgia does not cause body damage or deformity. However, undue fatigue plagues 90 percent of patients with fibromyalgia. Sleep disorder is also common in patients with the disease, and it can be associated with other rheumatic conditions, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can occur. There is no definitive medical test for the diagnosis of fibromyalgia, so diagnosis is made by eliminating other possible causes of the symptoms. The most effective treatment is a combination of education, stress reduction, exercise, and medication. Formerly known as fibrositis.
What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?
In addition to pain, people with fibromyalgia could also have:
- Cognitive and memory problems (sometimes called “fibro fog”)
- Trouble sleeping
- Morning stiffness
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Painful menstrual periods
- Numbness or tingling of hands and feet
- Restless legs syndrome
- Temperature sensitivity
- Sensitivity to loud noises or bright lights
How common is fibromyalgia? Who is mainly affected?
Fibromyalgia affects as many as 5 million Americans ages 18 and older. Most people with fibromyalgia are women (about 80 – 90 percent). However, men and children also can have the disorder. Most people are diagnosed during middle age.
Fibromyalgia can occur by itself, but people with certain other diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other types of arthritis, may be more likely to have it. Individuals who have a close relative with fibromyalgia are more likely to develop it themselves.
How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?
People with fibromyalgia often see many doctors before being diagnosed. One reason for this may be that pain and fatigue, the main symptoms of the disease, also are symptoms of many other conditions. Therefore, doctors often must rule out other possible causes of these symptoms before diagnosing fibromyalgia. It cannot be found by a lab test.
- A history of widespread pain lasting more than 3 months. Pain must be present in both the right and left sides of the body as well as above and below the waist.
- Presence of tender points. The body has 18 sites that are possible tender points. For a fibromyalgia diagnosis a person must have 11 or more tender points. For a point to be “tender,” the patient must feel pain when pressure is put on the site. People who have fibromyalgia may feel pain at other sites, too, but those 18 sites on the body are used for diagnosis.
What Causes Fibromyalgia
The causes of fibromyalgia are not known. Researchers think a number of factors might be involved. The disease can occur on its own, but has also been linked to:
- Having a family history of fibromyalgia
- Being exposed to stressful or traumatic events such as:Car accidents
- Injuries to the body cause by performing the same action over and over again (called “repetitive injuries) Infections of illnesses
- Being sent to war
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