Signs, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a painful chronic disease that affects the musculoskeletal system. The cause of fibromyalgia is not yet known, and much about the condition remains a mystery.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia may be pronounced or vague, and may be intermittent or constantly present. The variable nature of the symptoms makes frequently makes fibromyalgia a difficult condition to diagnose.
Many signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia are similar to those caused by other joint, muscular or immune system disorders, so diagnosis is typically a long and frustrating process.
Here are some common symptoms people with fibromyalgia experience:
- Muscle aches, either widespread or limited to a specific region of the body (back of the neck, chest, shoulders and lower back)
- Joint stiffness and pain
- Memory problems
- Brain fog
- Concentration problems
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
Fibromyalgia is often accompanied by other health issues that do not seem to be readily related to the disorder. These include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Temporomandibular joint disorder
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Mitral valve prolapse
Women aged 50 and older have the highest incidence of the disease, however men and younger individuals may have fibromyalgia too.
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
While experts are not clear about the cause of fibromyalgia, they have several theories about how the condition arises and presents itself.
Stress is believed to be a major contributor to the development of the disease, and symptoms also worsen when stress levels are elevated.
It is believed that pain of fibromyalgia may originate deep within the body. The pain felt in the musculoskeletal tissue may not originate in the same location where it is felt — it may be referred pain.
A classic example of referred pain not due to fibromyalgia is shoulder pain, which may arise when there is an injury within the pelvis.
Fibromyalgia may also be the result of muscles going into spasms. Repetitive stress to a muscle may a person more susceptible to pain in that area.
For example, if you have had a job that requires you do heavy lifting using the muscles in your arms for an extended period of time, symptoms may be worse in your arms.
Some experts believe fibromyalgia may be caused by a virus in much the same way that shingles appears in individuals who had chicken pox during childhood. They propose a virus may lie dormant in the body until some trigger, which is generally physical or emotional stress, reactivates it.
Next page: diagnosing and treating fibromyalgia.