Fibromyalgia is a neurologic chronic health condition that causes widespread pain throughout the body. About 4 million adults are currently affected by fibromyalgia in the United States. Researchers are unsure of what causes fibromyalgia. Although genetics may play a role in developing the condition, fibromyalgia often occurs from a triggering factor, such as emotional stress, a repeated injury or viral infection.
Risk Factors for Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is more common for middle-aged adults, usually between the ages of 35 and 60, and affects more women than men. Those who have a family member with the condition are at an increased risk, as are those with other diseases, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia causes a wide variety of symptoms, including the following:
- Depression and anxiety
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Greater sensitivity to pain
- Headaches or migraines
- Memory problems
- Pelvic pain
- Poor sleep
- Severe fatigue
- Tenderness affecting muscles and joints
Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose. There are no tests that can officially detect the condition. Instead, your healthcare provider will complete a thorough clinical examination to determine if you have fibromyalgia.
Your physician will look for the following signs of the condition:
- Cognitive problems
- Constant pain in several areas of the body over the past week
- Waking up exhausted, even after a full night of rest
These symptoms must have lasted for the previous three months, and all other similar health problems will have been ruled out. Your healthcare provider may order imaging or blood tests to rule out other conditions that mimic fibromyalgia.
Treatment for Fibromyalgia
Although there is no cure for the condition, symptoms can be effectively managed with the following:
- Cognitive therapy. This type of psychological therapy will help you understand how the mind affects pain levels. A therapist will guide you through strategies to deal with pain, such as practicing mindfulness to reduce stress levels.
- Drug therapy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved three drugs for fibromyalgia treatment: duloxetine, milnacipran and pregabalin. Speak with your physician about whether you should take prescription medication for treatment.
- Integrative medicine. Complimentary therapies, such as acupuncture, chiropractic therapy and massage therapy, could help ease pain. Because more research needs to be done on the effectiveness of these therapies, speak with your physician before beginning integrative medicine.
- Lifestyle changes. Making certain lifestyle changes, such as getting enough regular exercise, sleep, and eating a healthy diet, can help improve symptoms.