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Definition of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a condition that affects the muscles and soft tissue. It is a common and complex chronic pain disorder that causes widespread pain and tenderness in either one part of the body or spread all over, over time.

Fibromyalgia occurs in people of all ages, including children. The literal translation of the word fibromyalgia is pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons. But fibromyalgia has a number of other symptoms, depending from person to person.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

The primary symptom of fibromyalgia is the waxing and waning of pain throughout the body. Other than this, the most common signs and symptoms of this condition are:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Problem sleeping
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Irritable bowel
  • Impaired memory and concentration
  • Sensitive skin and rashes
  • Dry mouth
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Vision problems
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Impaired coordination

Risk factors of Fibromyalgia

You may be more at risk of developing fibromyalgia if you:

  • Are female
  • Have Genetic disposition
  • Are menopausal
  • Have poor physical conditioning
  • Have undergone a surgery of any kind
  • Have suffered trauma to the brain due to an accident or as result of emotional stress

It is to be noted that while these factors may increase your chances of developing fibromyalgia, a lot of patients of fibromyalgia have none of the above traits at all.

Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia encompasses many of the indications that are also found in many other disorders. A doctor must eliminate these other conditions before confirming the diagnosis of fibromyalgia. There is no simple test to diagnose fibromyalgia. Many people go from doctor to doctor without receiving a medical diagnosis for their fibromyalgia symptoms. Many wonder if their painful symptoms are simply illusory.

In the past, millions of fibromyalgia patients were misdiagnosed as having depression, inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid or lupus, chronic myofascial pain, or smyalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). There are a few similarities between fibromyalgia and ME/CFS and among fibromyalgia and arthritis. But fibromyalgia is different. It is a distinct condition that needs an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Investigations for Fibromyalgia

Most lab tests are not very beneficial by themselves for identifying fibromyalgia. There is a blood test called FM/a that recognises markers formed by immune system blood cells in individuals with fibromyalgia. One study showed the investigation can also help differentiate fibromyalgia from other disorders that can have similar symptoms, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

The doctor will time and again make a diagnosis after doing a physical exam and discussing your symptoms with you. The reason for this is that a diagnosis to large extent is based on the way you feel. For example, even though the doctor may notice tender points during the physical exam, the patient may still need to explain about the pain they feel in those areas.

Among the specific blood tests that the doctor may order is a complete blood count, kidney and liver tests, cholesterol, calcium levels, and thyroid tests

The doctor might test for ESR, rheumatoid factor and anti-CCP antibodies. These blood tests together can help diagnose between 50% and 80% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

The doctor may also test for anti-nuclear antibody (ANA).

Treatment of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia can be managed with medication and non-medication. Medication treatments often aid in coping with the discomfort and sleeplessness from which fibromyalgia patients suffer. However, the non-medication management are actually the basis of treatment for fibromyalgia. The non-medication treatments for fibromyalgia comprise of education, exercise and stress reduction. Sleep complaints could require both medication and non-medication treatments.

Education about fibromyalgia is very important. Often patients have suffered with symptoms for years, and simply knowing why they have pain can be a relief, as many patients become anxious not knowing what is causing their symptoms. Awareness should be created about the treatment approaches, good sleep hygiene and the significance of treating conditions that may contribute to their symptoms. For example, when a patient with rheumatoid arthritis has fibromyalgia as well, poor control of their rheumatoid arthritis may lead to worsening of fibromyalgia pain and sleeplessness.

A workout program is essential in the treatment of fibromyalgia and should take account of stretching, strengthening, and aerobic exercise. Starting slow and sticking with the exercise program is very important. Low-impact aerobic activities such as swimming, water aerobics, walking, and biking are activities that patients with fibromyalgia find helpful. Many patients find it helpful to exercise in the morning. Some find yoga helpful for strengthening and stretching.

Reducing stress is important in handling the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Many feel that their symptoms are prompted by stress. Stress reduction can be challenging. There are many stressors in life; some can be changed and others cannot. Reducing stress involves a blend of changing stressors that can be changed and adapting to lessen the body's stress reaction to the stressors that cannot be changed.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a form of psychological therapy whereby a therapist and patient work together, to establish healthy patterns of behaviour by replacing negative thoughts with more productive thoughts and actions. This has been established to work in fibromyalgia. This method of therapy can be done one on one in an office or even over the Internet.

When compared to non-medication remedies, medication treatments can help improve sleep, pain and function in fibromyalgia. Management of medications is utmost effective for pain relief when combined with ongoing non-medication treatments as discussed above. Medications often used in the management of fibromyalgia consist of medications in the antidepressant class and anticonvulsants.

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