Unclear Causes Of Fibromyalgia
The causes of fibromyalgia are unclear. They may be different in different people. Fibromyalgia may run in families and there can be certain genes that can cause people to develop a higher tendency for getting fibromyalgia and the other health problems that can take place with it. Genes alone, though, do not initiate fibromyalgia. There is most often some triggering factors that blast off the fibro stiffness and pain. It may be spine problems, arthritis, injury, or other type of physical stress. Emotional stress also may trigger this illness. The result is a change in the way the body “talks” with the spinal cord and brain. Levels of brain chemicals and proteins may change. For the person with fibromyalgia, it is as though the “volume control” is turned up too high in the brain’s pain processing centers.
- There is no test to detect this disease, but you may need lab tests or X-rays to rule out other health problems.
- Patients also may feel better with proper self-care, such as exercise and getting enough sleep Doctors diagnose fibromyalgia based on all the patient’s relevant symptoms (what you feel), no longer just on the number of tender points.
- Though there is no cure, medications can relieve symptoms.
- Fibromyalgia affects two to four percent of people, mostly women.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic health problem that causes pain all over the body and other symptoms. Symptoms of fibromyalgia and its related problems can vary in intensity, and will intensify and back off as time goes by. Stress often worsens the symptoms.
Other symptoms that patients most often have are:
- Tenderness to touch or pressure affecting joints and muscles
- Pelvic pain
- Temporomandibular disorder—often called TMJ (a set of symptoms including face or jaw pain, jaw clicking and ringing in the ears)
- Problems with memory or thinking clearly
- Depression or anxiety
- Migraine or tension headaches
- Digestive problems: irritable bowel syndrome (commonly called IBS) or gastroesophageal reflux disease (often referred to as GERD)
- Sleep problems (waking up unrefreshed)
- Irritable or overactive bladder
A doctor will suspect fibromyalgia based on your symptoms. Doctors used to require that you have tenderness to pressure or tender points at a specific number of certain spots before saying you have fibromyalgia. This is no longer the case. Your doctor may still look for tender points, but they are not required to make the diagnosis (see the Box). A physical exam can be helpful to detect tenderness and to exclude other causes of muscle pain.
There are no diagnostic tests (such as X-rays or blood tests) for this problem. Yet, you may need tests to rule out another health problem that can be confused with fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is most common in women, though it can occur in men. It most often starts in middle adulthood, but can occur in the teen years and in old age. Younger children can also develop widespread body pain and fatigue. You are at higher risk for fibromyalgia if you have a rheumatic disease, which is a health problem that affects the joints, muscles and bones. These include osteoarthritis, lupus and even rheumatoid arthritis. Fibromyalgia is a common health problem that causes widespread pain and stiffness to the muscles and joints. The pain and tenderness tend to increase and decrease the issues. It can be perplexing to some physicians to diagnose fibromyalgia.
Describing Your Pain
Because widespread pain is the main feature of fibromyalgia, health care providers will ask you to describe your pain. This may help tell the difference between fibromyalgia and other diseases with similar symptoms. For instance, hypothyroidism and polymyalgia rheumatica sometimes mimic fibromyalgia. Yet, certain blood tests can explain if you have either of these issues. Sometimes, fibromyalgia is confused with rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. But, again, there is a difference in the symptoms, physical findings and blood tests that will help your health care provider detect these health problems. Unlike fibromyalgia, these rheumatic diseases cause inflammation in the joints and tissues.
Treating This Syndrome
There is no cure for fibromyalgia. However, symptoms can be treated with both medication and non-drug treatments. Search out other articles on fibromyalgia to learn more about these treatment options.