Fibromyalgia Syndrome – A Mysterious Disease
Numbers of Fibromyalgia Patients
Nearly 9 out of 10 Fibromyalgia patients are female. Since 2005, this diagnosis in the United States has doubled to about 10 million Americans and an estimated 3 to 6% of the world population. While 75 to 90% of the patients are women, it also occurs in men and children of all ethnic groups. This disorder is often seen in families among siblings or mothers and their children. Typically the diagnosis is usually made between the ages of 20 and 50 years of age, however, the incidence rises with age so that by age 80 approximately 8% of adults meet the American College of Rheumatology classification of Fibromyalgia.
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Thousands of sufferers live through each day not understanding why they can barely function and many doctors do not understand this disease. Even the doctors that do understand the disease don't always know how to treat it. Physicians are not sure of the underlying cause for this disease, however, a number of studies show multiple physiological abnormalities, so there is some progress being made.
Recent study showed that genetic factors may predispose individuals to a genetic susceptibility. Fibromyalgia often occurs following a physical trauma, such as an acute illness or injury, which may trigger the development of this disease. New research has begun in the areas of brain imaging and neural surgery. Medical researchers have just begun to untangle the truth about this life altering disease
Excellent Books on Fibromyalgia
There are no specific tests for Fibromyalgia which make the diagnosis difficult. This is a problem for patients as sometimes they are written off as depressed, lazy, or their symptoms are just a fantasy of their mind. The diagnosis comes from a patient’s history, symptoms, a physical examination and accurate manual tender point examination. It typically takes a patient five years to get a diagnosis.
The patient must meet the following diagnostic criteria:
- Widespread pain in all four quadrants of the body for minimum duration of three months.
- Tenderness or pain in at least 11 of the 18 specified tender points were pressure is applied.
Diagram Courtesy of National Fibromyalgia Association
Fibromyalgia is it complex, chronic pain disorder that affects people physically, mentally and socially. It is a syndrome rather than a disease. A syndrome is a collection of signs, symptoms and medical problems that tend to occur together but are not related to a specific disorder.
What are the symptoms of Fibromyalgia according to the National Fibromyalgia Association?
- Pain: the pain is profound, widespread and without relief. It can migrate to all parts of the body and vary in intensity and it's also been described as a stabbing or shooting pain which can be deep muscle aches. Sometimes there is numbness, tingling, muscle twitching and burning which adds to the discomfort. It is often worse in the mornings. Some factors that affect the pain are cold/humid weather, non– restorative sleep, physical and mental fatigue, excessive physical activity, physical inactivity, anxiety and stress.
- Fatigue: the fatigue of Fibromyalgia is much more than just being tired after a busy day it's an all-encompassing exhaustion that can interfere with your life on every level. The symptoms include profound exhaustion and poor stamina.
- Sleep problems: Many patients have associated sleep disorders that prevent them from getting deep, restful, restorative sleep. Medical researchers have documented specific and distinctive abnormalities in the Stage 4 deep sleep of these patients. During sleep, Fibromyalgia patients are constantly interrupted by bursts of awake like brain activity, limiting the amount of time they spend in deep sleep.
- Other symptoms/overlapping conditions: Other symptoms may include irritable bowel and bladder, headaches and migraines, restless legs syndrome, impaired memory and concentration, skin sensitivities and rashes, dry eyes and mouth, anxiety, depression, ringing in the ears, dizziness, vision problems, Raynaud’s syndrome, a neurological symptoms and impaired coordination.
Fibromyalgia Signs and Fibromyalgia Symptoms
Diagram Courtesy of Every Day Health
Ways to Help Yourself
Reduce stress: Allow yourself time to rest each day and avoid or limit over exertion and emotional stress. You they have to learn to say no without feeling guilty. Patients who quit work or drop all activity tend to do worse than those who remain active. Meditation and deep breathing exercises are great to help with stress management.
Get enough sleep: Since fatigue is one of the main characteristics of the disease getting enough sleep is essential. Practice good sleep habits by going to bed about the same time and getting up at the same time each day.
Exercise regularly: Initially exercise may increase your pain. Start gradually and regularly with simple exercise often decreases symptoms. A physical therapist can help you develop a home exercise program. Good posture, stretching and relaxation exercises are also helpful.
Pace yourself: Keep your activity and even level because if you do too much on your good days you're going to have more bad days. Moderation means not overdoing it.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Eat healthy foods, limit caffeine intake, do something each day that you find enjoyable and fulfilling.
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According to Mayo Clinic treatment involves using medication
and self-care where they emphasize minimizing symptoms and improving general
health. Only take medication that is prescribed by your physician.
- Analgesics: acetaminophen (Tylenol) may ease the pain and stiffness. Ultram is a prescription pain reliever that may be taken with Tylenol. The doctor may also prescribe non– steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – such as ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin or naproxen sodium, believe and other in conjunction with other medications.
- Antidepressants: Cymbalta and Savella may help ease the pain and fatigue associated with the Fibromyalgia. Your doctor may prescribe amitriptyline or Prozac to help promote sleep.
- Anti–seizure drugs: Medications designed to treat epilepsy are often useful in reducing certain types of pain. Gabapentin and Lyrica are the most commonly used medications in this group. Lyrica is the first drug approved by the FDA for the treatment of Fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia patients can get very frustrating trying to get a diagnosis, particularly when it takes five years in many cases. Also, there is no known cure, no real test to prove you have the disease and the future must seem uncertain.
Studies have shown that there are things you can do to help yourself if you have Fibromyalgia, which will at least relieve some of the symptoms. There is a lot of research being done at this time so we hope to see the cure in the not-too-distant future
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