If you read health magazines on a regular basis, chances are you’ve heard of fibromyalgia. This debilitating and painful disease has been receiving more attention in the press lately. Much of the increased awareness has to do with the fact that an estimated 10 million Americans suffer from fibromyalgia.
Spreading but Confusing
Although fibromyalgia is becoming an increasingly common condition, the disease continues to remain shrouded in mystery and confusion. Part of the reason fibromyalgia remains misunderstood is because it is very difficult to detect. In fact, it can take years before the average fibromyalgia patient receives an accurate diagnosis.
Part of this confusion has to do with the fact the symptoms of fibromyalgia often resemble those of other types of arthritis. Also, in the past physicians were not as well educated about the disease as they are today. Furthermore, there is no one diagnostic test that can determine whether a person has fibromyalgia. As you can imagine, fibromyalgia can be a difficult disease to diagnose and treat precisely because its causes are so mysterious.
As mentioned above, doctors and researchers are still unsure about the cause of fibromyalgia. Health professionals have pinned down a number of possible causes.
- Some doctors have made a link between fibromyalgia and the loss of estrogen that women experience during menopause. Many health professionals accept this theory because statistics show that the majority of fibromyalgia sufferers are women between the ages of 40 and 55. Research is currently being done to determine if there are in fact a direct link between the loss of estrogen and the onset of fibromyalgia.
- Another possible cause for fibromyalgia may be related to a deficiency in certain chemicals, namely serotonin. Research has shown that fibromyalgia sufferers often experience low levels of serotonin and experience difficulty in getting enough sleep. Serotonin is a chemical that the body naturally produces. It is responsible for regulating sleep, appetite, sexual desire, and mood.
- Depression has also been linked to fibromyalgia. Some researchers believe there is a link between serotonin, depression, and fibromyalgia. However, others believe that depression alone causes changes in the patient’s brain chemistry. This in turn causes the brain to release chemicals that induce pain and cause the onset of fibromyalgia.
- Other health professionals speculate that fibromyalgia is a result of injury or illness. Some cases of fibromyalgia have been linked to individuals who suffered some kind of back injury. Others have been linked to cases of severe influenza, and even Lyme disease. While there is no clear evidence that injury or illness can cause fibromyalgia, many researchers still suspect some kind of indirect link.
- Stress may also be a factor in this mysterious disease. Many health professionals suspect that stress may be a major contributing factor to the onset of fibromyalgia. Even if stress is not directly responsible, most fibromyalgia patients agree that the disease does its work at times of stress. Symptoms appear to worsen during moments of increased stress, and they appear to lessen as stress is reduced.