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Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia (FM)
What is Fibromyalgia (FM)?
Fibromyalgia (FM) is a long-term (chronic) pain problem. The main symptoms of FM are pain and stiffness throughout the body. The pain and stiffness are usually worse in the morning. It can take hours before the body loosens up. The pain with FM can be quite variable. It can be aggravated by stress, lack of sleep, physical activity, and even the weather.
Pain is often worse following activity and can last for days afterwards. Believe it or not, there is nothing actually wrong with the muscle or joints, although it can feel that way. Fibromyalgia is thought to happen because the nerves and brain amplify pain signals. Therefore people feel muscle and joint pain when there actually is no tissue damage causing the pain.
Fibromyalgia is also associated with severe fatigue that can be very debilitating. The pain and fatigue from FM can limit things you’re able to do. Fortunately it doesn’t cause long-term damage to joints or other tissues in the body.
What causes fibromyalgia?
Currently researchers believe that FM is a neurologic (brain) problem. In other words, the body has a problem in transmitting pain signals. Think of it this way: the nerves and brain are not able to turn off painful stimuli as they normally would. When the brain is bombarded with pain signals over a long period of time, nerves that normally shut off pain signals called ‘descending inhibitors’ die off. This means that pain signals can reach the brain in an uninhibited (limitless) way.
The exact cause of FM is not fully understood. The abnormal processing of pain signals may be triggered by a prior injury, viral illness or other autoimmune illness. Because the cause of FM isn’t visually apparent or obvious others might not understand or believe what you are going through. This can be frustrating.
Who gets fibromyalgia?
It is estimated that FM affects about 1 person in every 100. That means that in a city of 100,000 people, you could expect about 100 people to have FM. You can see that it’s not all that uncommon: you might know someone else who has it. Some famous people who have or have had FM include singer Sinead O’Connor and soap opera actress Susan Flannery.
Fibromyalgia predominantly affects women. Men can also be affected but cases are much less common. This disease affects mostly young to middle-aged people. The majority of cases of FM occur after a stressful incident, such as an emotional or physical injury. For instance, a car accident or another medical illness could trigger FM.
How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?
Fibromyalgia is diagnosed through a thorough physical exam, a good review of one’s medical history and appropriate, routine lab investigations. A diagnosis of FM should be made by only by a health care provider.
Follow this link for a list of the Diagnostic criteria for FM.
What tests are done to diagnose fibromyalgia?
Because there is no obvious damage to tissues, it can be hard to diagnose FM. The diagnosis is essentially done by the process of elimination. A thorough series of blood tests can help rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. When all other illnesses with similar symptoms are ruled out, a diagnosis of FM can be made. Having tests that do not provide answers can be tiring. Remember that FM is real, even if it can’t be diagnosed by an X-ray or blood test.
Read more – Symptoms of Fibromyalgia