Fibromyalgia is chronic neurological disorder that involves widespread pain, tenderness, fatigue, and other symptoms. This condition is common in middle-aged women but it can affect patients of either sex or at any age. 2-4% of people can be affected by fibromyalgia. The term fibromyalgia means pain in muscles and fibrous tissues.
Fibromyalgia is still considered a medically small disorder, as it does not cause any serious problem or physical deformities, or loss of life.
But it has a major effect on the quality of life of the patient because it interferes with a person’s ability to perform daily activities and affects cognitive functioning like the ability to think, to reason, to remember.
The diagnosis can be made with careful examination and exclusion of other diseases having similar symptoms. There is no cure for the fibromyalgia support from doctors can provide positive effects on patients’ quality of life.
Causes of fibromyalgia
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is not clear. It is not an autoimmune, inflammatory, joint, or muscle disorder though some factors like spine problem, arthritis, injury, or other type of physical stress even emotional stress may trigger this illness.
More recently, fibromyalgia has been described as ‘central pain amplification disorder’, meaning the volume of pain sensation in the brain is turned up too high.
There is abnormal pain processing specifically in the central nervous system rather than from dysfunction in peripheral tissues where pain is perceived. There is a change in the way the body communicates with the spinal cord and brain.
Though genes alone do not cause fibromyalgia, but there may be certain genes that can make people more prone to getting fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia may run in families.
Diagnosis of fibromyalgia
There is no diagnostic test available for fibromyalgia therefore disease is diagnosed by checking the patient, evaluating symptoms, and extracting other conditions.
There are some conditions that can be confused with fibromyalgia like hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, polymyalgia rheumatica and other inflammatory and autoimmune disorders.
A fibromyalgia diagnosis is often made when a patient has unexplained pain for at least 3 months and at least 11 of 18 tender points in specific locations are tender and no other health problem is detected that could explain the pain and other symptoms.
These tender points should not be confused with trigger points, which are associated with chronic myofascial pain. The primary difference between tender points and trigger points is that trigger points can produce referred pain (they can cause pain in other parts of the body).
Treatment of fibromyalgia
Treatment of fibromyalgia involves a combination of medications, stress management, exercise and rest with enough sleep. There is no cure for fibromyalgia.
However, symptoms can be treated with both non-drug measures and medication based treatments. Many times the best outcomes are achieved by using multiple types of treatments.