Fibromyalgia Information: Definition And Diagnosis

Fibromyalgia information about what it is and treatments. Often called the

Fibromyalgia Syndrome ("FMS") is often called "the invisible disability" or "irritable everything" syndrome because of its wide range of symptoms that cannot be easily detected on the surface. Little is known about the cause of this condition, and most of the symptoms are not outwardly noticeable.

FMS is a complex, chronic condition that causes widespread pain and fatigue. The condition causes pain and/or swelling in the soft tissues located around joints, skin, and organs throughout the body. Unlike arthritis, FMS does not cause swelling in the joints themselves.

Up to 10 million Americans have been estimated to have Fibromyalgia and the condition is known and recognized around the world. Although it is most common in women of childbearing age, it effects people of all ages, sexes, and races. Men, women, and children have been diagnosed with the syndrome. The typical age range is between 30 and 50, but many relate that they had problems physically as far back as their childhood, which were then attributed to "growing pains".

Fibromyalgia is a tricky, frustrating condition. It claims victims through a variety of symptoms. The one prevalent symptom is chronic, widespread pain. Fibromyalgia is not a benign disease; although the symptoms are not life threatening, they are often life altering. Pain and exhaustion may cause a person with FMS to become isolated and incapacitated for days at a time. Because of the invisible nature of this condition, families and friends of people with Fibromyalgia sometimes believe it's "All in their head" and even doctors at one time considered the disease a psychosomatic or "made-up" illness. However, the American College of Rheumatology, the American Medical Association, and the Arthritis Foundation have all recognized Fibromyalgia as a serious, but treatable disease.

To accurately diagnose Fibromyalgia, a rheumatologist or other doctor familiar with Fibromyalgia will perform a tender point test. (If you can't find a doctor near you, contact the Arthritis Foundation and they can refer you.) These 18 trigger points are shown in the graphic below. The doctor will apply pressure with an approximate force of 4kg. If the patient has pain in 11 of these 18 tender points in combination with meeting other diagnose criteria, and then the doctor may diagnose Fibromyalgia.

Pain levels have been found to vary among individuals, from low to high levels, along with a variety of symptoms. To be diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a sufferer must have pain in 11 of 18 tender points. However, widespread pain can be anything from achiness and stiffness in the morning to sharp, shooting pain that lasts all day long. No two FMS patients have symptoms that are identical. FMS is also known to aggravate other illnesses, and it is common for FMS sufferers to have other conditions as well. A person diagnosed with Fibromyalgia may have all or just a few of the following symptoms:

*Back Pain, Knee Pain, and Muscle Pain: Pain that is located near the joints. Joints that are achy, swollen or stiff. There may be sharp, shooting pains through the muscles, especially where the tendons meet the bones.

*Trigger Point Inflammation:Trigger points (used to diagnose FMS) often become inflamed and painfully tender.

*Overall Stiffness:Stiffness effects multiple parts of the body, especially in the morning or after sitting or standing in one position. May be aggravated with changes in the weather.

*Fatigue and Sleep Problems: Many people with Fibromyalgia wake up in the morning feeling exhausted, even after a good amount of sleep. They may have problems falling asleep or staying asleep. FMS patients have difficulty achieving phase 4 sleep and sometimes toss and turn, awaking throughout the night.

*Weight Gain: The average person diagnosed with FMS gains up to 50 pounds within 5 years of diagnosis. Factors contributing to this gain are a lack of exercise, cravings for sweets and carbohydrates, and medication. It is unknown whether FMS directly contributes to this weight gain. Depending on the level of pain experienced, exercising may be nearly impossible during times of acute pain. However, many sufferers claim exercising has helped alleviate some of their symptoms.

*Skin Problems: Itchy, dry or blotchy skin is common for FMS sufferers.

*Muscle Twitches: It is common for an FMS patient to have periodic muscle spasms, cramps, and tics.

*Allergies: Patients with allergies may experience an increase in symptoms, such as sinusitis or allergic rhinitus. Patients who are NOT allergic may experience symptoms closely akin to allergic reactions. This can happen in reaction to a number of substances, such as medication, food additives, chemicals, etc. They may have unexplained nasal congestion and sinus pain in the absence of allergic reactions.

*Sensitivity: 50% of patients may be particularly sensitive to environmental factors. They may feel abnormally hot or cool. Some patients become hypersensitive to light, noise, odors, and changes in the weather. (Rain, etc.) This sensitivity is attributed to hyper vigilance in the nervous system.

*Dizziness: Some patients may experience periodic dizziness or a sense of lost equilibrium. Other patients may get dizzy then disoriented, bumping into things, dropping things, and doing other things observers may consider "clumsy".

*Cognitive Disorders (also called "Fibrofog"): Patients with FMS report cognitive disorders that can vary on a daily basis. These include difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, memory lapses, and becoming overwhelmed easily.

Depression and Anxiety: Sufferers sometimes experience anxiety and/or depression at a high rate. Although there is no way yet to determine which comes first, doctors believe that FMS is contributing factor to depression, not the other way around.

*Chest Pains: Patients are more likely to have chest pain when they engage in activity that requires forward motion, such as sitting at a desk. Many patients experience shallow breathing and upper body discomfort. Often, patients with FMS have been misdiagnosed with heart disease in the past.

*Ears Ringing/Itching: FMS sufferers may have ringing or itchy ears, or hear "strange" sounds inside their ears, especially at night or when laying down.

*Headaches/Migraines: Patients may experience migraines, tension, or vascular headaches.

TMJ :Many sufferers develop an arthritic condition of the temporomandibular joint in the jaw. (TMJ) Common symptoms include facial pain, joint popping or locking, pain with chewing and inability to completely open or close the mouth. 1/3 of patients experience TMJ pain.

*Sinus Problems:Sufferers may have an increased occurrence of sinusitis and sinus pain, even if there is no infection or allergy present.

Gastrointestinal Disorders: Many patients experience digestive problems, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Many suffer from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) in addition to FMS.

*Urinary Problems: FMS sufferers may experience increased urination or more frequent urination, without having a bladder infection. Some may develop a chronic, inflammatory condition of the bladder.

*Menstruation Problems: A woman's menstrual period may become more painful. She may also experience pain during sex, or pain in the vulva region during menstruation.

*Swelling in Extremities :Some patients may find that they have a sensation of swelling in their fingers and toes, even if no swelling is present.

Tingling and Burning Sensations :Some patients may experience tingling or burning sensations in their feet and hands.

*Restless Leg Syndrome :31% of patients have a disorder called RLS. This syndrome involves the compulsive urge to move the legs when at rest or lying down.

Other symptoms may be attributable to Fibromyalgia that are not on this list. If you have been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, it is important to remember that you are not alone, and that you are not "crazy", even when your symptoms make no sense. If the medical community understood Fibromyalgia completely, there would be a cure for it. Self-care, along with the treatment of a knowledgeable doctor or rheumatologist can help you cope with your symptoms drastically to enhance your quality of life.

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