Fibromyalgia, formerly known as fibrositis, is a chronic disorder associated with widespread pain all over the body, involving the muscles and bones, soft tissues, and ligaments. This common disorder affects about 2-4% of people and is accompanied by general fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Symptoms are also considered subjected and there isn't a clear known cause so it is often misdiagnosed. Fibromyalgia usually lingers for years before a health care expert diagnoses the condition.
Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals. Some doctors don't consider fibromyalgia as a real condition, although it's more widely accepted and recognized in the medical community now than as before. The reason for this is a lack of objective and tests. As a result, people who suffer from fibromyalgia also run the risk of depression as they struggle against the stigma and for acceptance with this painful disease. The more that medical professionals begin to accept this condition, then the opportunity to explore effective ways of treating fibromyalgia also grows.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
The symptoms of fibromyalgia can start after undergoing surgery, suffering from physical trauma, infection or substantial psychological stress. In some cases, the symptoms slowly build up over time, without any single triggering condition.
- Pervasive pain which has lasted for at least three months. The pain is commonly described as a constant dull ache and occur on both side of the body, above and below the waist.
- Tiredness and fatigue. People suffering from fibromyalgia often feel tired, even though they may be able to sleep for long periods. Sleep is most often interrupted by pain. Fibromyalgia patients are also prone to suffer from sleep disorders like sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome.
- Mental and cognitive difficulties. Patients have impaired ability to focus and concentrate on mental tasks, have difficulty paying attention and may often forget things. This symptom is referred to as "fibro fog."
More often, fibromyalgia co-exists with other conditions like:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Painful bladder syndrome
- Migraine and headaches
- Joint disorders
- Increased pain sensitivity
- Stiffness of the muscles
Causes of Fibromyalgia
Health care professionals and doctors can't pinpoint the direct and exact cause of fibromyalgia, but is thought to be related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain. These chemicals change the way the nervous system - the brain, spinal column and nerves, processes the pain signals carried in the whole body. In most cases, this condition can be triggered by stressful events, physically or emotionally. Some studies also suggest that there is a genetic aspect to this ailment.
- Genetics. There may be certain genetic factors that make some people more susceptible in developing fibromyalgia, which tends to run in families.
- Infections. Some conditions and illness seem to trigger or worsen the condition.
- Physical or emotional trauma. Stressful events such as injury, giving birth, or death of a loved one, may trigger fibromyalgia
Treatment for Fibromyalgia
There is no specific test for fibromyalgia and the symptoms exhibited can be similar to other conditions. Estimates suggest that nearly 1 in 20 people may be affected by this illness. One of the reasons that it's not known how many are affected by fibromyalgia is due to the fact that is a difficult condition to diagnose.
Currently, there is no known cure for fibromyalgia, but there are treatments that can help relieve its symptoms and make the condition easier to live with and reduce pain and discomfort:
- Medication including painkillers and antidepressants
- Therapy such as counselling and cognitive behavioral therapy
- Lifestyle changes like healthy diet, relaxation techniques and a regular exercise program.