To many, the name fibromyalgia is nothing more than a funny sounding word. To others it represents pain, and exhaustion. The chronic condition known as fibromyalgia is becoming more recognized by those outside the medical community as news spreads about this debilitating condition.
The condition is not easy to diagnosis and doctors often misdiagnose or tell individuals that they do not know what is wrong or worse, that the patient is a chronic complainer with no known cause.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia are widespread pain coming from muscles, ligaments and tendons. The individual feels extreme fatigue. In years past the set of symptoms that define fibromyalgia were called by the following names: chronic muscle pain syndrome, fibrositis, psychogenic rheumatism and tension myalgias.
The condition is not known to be progressive or life threatening so at least patients can take some measure of comfort in that. They can also take heart in that the symptoms can be treated and they can feel better. Symptoms will vary in intensity from day to day. Individuals with fibromyalgia can be taught self-care steps that can improve how they feel.
What are the Symptoms?
Different individuals diagnosed with fibromyalgia may vary slightly regarding the symptoms and the intensity of the symptoms. Some common signs and symptoms of the condition are widespread pain, fatigue and also sleep disturbances, the presence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), headaches or experiencing facial pain, a heightened sensitivity to bright lights, odors, noises, and to touch. They may also suffer from one or more of the following signs or symptoms too.
Additional symptoms of fibromyalgia:
• Chest pain
• Dry eyes
• Dry skin
• Dry mouth
• Difficulty concentrating
• Numbness or a tingling in the hands or feet
• Women with fibromyalgia may have painful menstruation
There are many theories that are floating around about why some people get fibromyalgia and others do not. One theory is that of “central sensitization”, and another theory is that those with fibromyalgia occur because of sleep disturbances.
Others believe that the condition may be initiated by an injury or trauma that occurs in the upper spinal area. This type of injury would affect the central nervous system, which may then trigger fibromyalgia. Another theory is that a bacterial or viral infection can trigger the manifestation of the condition.
Still others believe that fibromyalgia may be the result of abnormalities of the autonomic (sympathetic) nervous system. A final theory involves changes in the muscle metabolism such as when decreased blood flow to muscles contributes to a decrease in both muscle fatigue and muscle strength. Abnormalities in the hormonal substance that plays a role in the activity of nerves could also contribute to fibromyalgia.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia can come and go and they can also change in severity over time too. It is often difficult to arrive at the diagnosis of fibromyalgia so individuals often suffer not knowing what is wrong with them.
The reason the diagnosis is difficult to make is that there is no test that can determine fibromyalgia. The diagnosis is made based on patient history of symptoms, medical history, physical examination and something called “the tender-point examination.
This is a particular examination that is based upon the standardized American College of Rheumatology‘s criteria that they have set for proper implementation of the examination in order to identify the presence of multiple tender points at locations that are characteristic of the condition. The diagnosis is so difficult to determine that on average individual may wait as long as five years on average, before the diagnosis is reached.
Another part of the reason for the difficult diagnosis is that many doctors are unfamiliar with the condition and what to look for when arriving at the diagnosis. Other diseases have similar symptoms and can also make diagnosing the condition difficult. These other diseases can be rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. It is also possible to have overlapping conditions in one patient.
The standardized criteria for fibromyalgia diagnosis is that the individual must have widespread pain in all of the body quadrants that has been present for a minimum of three months, and tenderness or pain in a minimum of 11 out of the 18 specified tender points when pressure is applied to each point.