What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a debilitating chronic illness characterized by diffuse pain, fatigue, and a wide range of other symptoms. It is a syndrome, not a disease. It is not contagious, and is probably genetic. It affects more women than men, mostly between ages 20 and 50. It is seen in 3-10% of the general population. The nature of fibromyalgia is not well understood.
Fibromyalgia is sometimes categorized as primary or secondary. In primary fibromyalgia (also called idiopathic fibromyalgia) the causes are not known, and in secondary fibromyalgia the causes can be identified. Primary fibromyalgia is the more common form.
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is not known. Some researchers believe fibromyalgia may be the extreme end of a continuous spectrum of chronic pain due to abnormal levels of various hormones. Fibromyalgia coincides with many other conditions such as lupus, Lyme disease and rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, many patients with fibromyalgia are also diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine headaches, or depression. Some experts suggest that these conditions might be different manifestations of the same root condition. Another theory is that a powerful nerve impulse (particularly a pain impulse) from the body sent over and over again physically changes the central nervous system, especially the nerves and nerve connections in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord. Genes are switched on, and nerve cells become physically altered so they are more easily excited by pain signals or process normal touching sensations as if they were pain impulses.
Fibromyalgia is a syndrome associated with chronic, widespread disabling pain. Those who have fibromyalgia have aching muscles and sore necks, shoulders, and backs. They sleep poorly and are often stiff when they wake up or move after sitting for long periods of time. The intensity and location of the pain and the degree of fatigue may vary from day to day and may become worse with excessive exercise and with stress. Although rarely talked about, fibromyalgia is a common disorder that affects about 3.4% of all women and 0.5% of all men in the United States, especially those of early middle age. It has been estimated that on a typical day, about 5% of the people in a doctor’s waiting room are affected by fibromyalgia. For most rheumatologists, it is the second or third most common condition diagnosed.
Many experts believe that fibromyalgia is not a disease but rather a chronic pain condition brought on by a constellation of dysfunctional biologic responses to stress. Such individuals are thought to be more susceptible to stress because of traumatic personal histories, genetic factors, or both. Physical injuries, emotional trauma, or viral infections, such as Epstein-Barr, may act as triggers for the onset of the disorder, but none have proven to be a cause of primary fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia syndrome is a common illness. In fact, it is as common as rheumatoid arthritis and can even be more painful. People with mild to moderate cases of FMS are usually able to live a normal life, given the appropriate treatment. If symptoms are severe, however, people may not be able to hold a paying job or enjoy much of a social life. The name fibromyalgia is made up from "fibro" for fibrous tissues such as tendons and ligaments: "my" indicating muscles; and "algia", meaning pain.
More information on fibromyalgia syndrome
What is fibromyalgia syndrome? - Fibromyalgia is a debilitating chronic illness characterized by diffuse pain, fatigue, and a wide range of other symptoms.
What causes fibromyalgia? - The cause of fibromyalgia is currently unknown. Sleep disturbances are common in fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is an inherited disorder.
What're the risk factors for fibromyalgia? - Risk factors for fibromyalgia include gender, age, genetic factors, specific lifestyle factors, psychiatric illness.
What're the complications of fibromyalgia? - Fibromyalgia is a common and chronic problem. Fibromyalgia can be mild or disabling, and the emotional repercussions can be substantial.
What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia? - Fibromyalgia symptoms include widespread, diffuse pain, physical fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, genitourinary symptoms, dermatological disorders.
How is fibromyalgia diagnosed? - Diagnosis of fibromyalgia is difficult. The doctor may make a diagnosis by ruling out other conditions with similar symptoms.
What's the treatment for fibromyalgia? - There is no cure for fibromyalgia. Treatment for fibromyalgia involves conventional analgesics to reduce the effects of fatigue and pain.
What fibromyalgia diet is suggested? - Fibromyalgia patients should maintain a healthy diet low in animal fat and high in fiber, with plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables.
What fibromyalgia exercise is suggested? - Low-impact aerobic exercises are effective treatments for fibromyalgia. Exercise regimens are most beneficial when performed on an every-other-day basis.
Fibromyalgia pain relief medications - Pain relief is of major concern for patients with fibromyalgia. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is often used for mild pibromyalgia pain relief.