Fibromyalgia - Diagnosis, Symptoms & Treatment
Since 2005, the chronic illness of Fibromyalgia in the United States has doubled to about 10 million Americans and an estimated 3.6 percent of the world's population. While 75 to 90% of the patients are women; it also occurs in men and children of all ethnic groups.
Fibromyalgia often occurs with other diseases, especially:
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (commonly called lupus).
- Ankylosing spondylitis (spinal arthritis).
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 by age 80 years of age 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
Diagnosis of 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.
According to Mayo Clinic the following blood tests are often done to rule out or help diagnoses this disease.
- Complete blood count
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
- Cyclic citrullinated peptide test
- Rheumatoid factor
- Thyroid function tests
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.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
- Pain: the pain widespread musculoskeletal, which without relief. It can migrate to all parts of the body and vary in intensity and it's also been described in different ways. The pain may be worse in cold or humid weather. Anxiety and stress may increase pain level.
- Fatigue: the fatigue of Fibromyalgia is much more than just being tired after a busy day it's an all-encompassing exhaustion The symptoms include poor stamina.
- Sleep problems: Many patients have associated sleep disorders that prevent them from getting deep, restful, restorative sleep. Obviously fatigue is a constant problem. Medical researchers have documented specific abnormalities in the Stage 4 deep sleep.
- Other symptoms or possible conditions: Symptoms may include irritable bowel and bladder, headaches and migraines, restless legs syndrome, impaired memory and concentration ("fibro fog" as the inability of concentrate or focus), 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.
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.
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. Sometimes Tramadol is ordered, but narcotics are not.
- 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 may be useful to reduce 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 while they are 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
The copyright, renewed in 2018, for this article is owned by Pamela Oglesby. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.