You hurt all over, and you frequently feel exhausted. Even after numerous tests, your doctor can't find anything specifically wrong with you. If this sounds familiar, you may have fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain in your muscles, ligaments and tendons, as well as fatigue and multiple tender points - places on your body where slight pressure causes pain. Fibromyalgia occurs in about 2 percent of the population in the United States. Women are much more likely to develop the disorder than are men, and the risk of fibromyalgia increases with age. Fibromyalgia symptoms often begin after a physical or emotional trauma, but in many cases there appears to be no triggering event.
Complications of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia isn't progressive and generally doesn't lead to other conditions or diseases. It can, however, lead to pain, depression and lack of sleep. These problems can then interfere with your ability to function at home or on the job, or maintain close family or personal relationships. The frustration of dealing with an often-misunderstood condition also can be a complication of the condition.
Causes of Fibromyalgia
Doctors don't know what causes fibromyalgia, but it most likely involves a variety of factors working together. These may include:
Signs & Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary, depending on the weather, stress, physical activity or even the time of day.
Widespread pain and tender points
The pain associated with fibromyalgia is described as a constant dull ache, typically arising from muscles. To be considered widespread, the pain must occur on both sides of your body and above and below your waist.
Fibromyalgia is characterized by additional pain when firm pressure is applied to specific areas of your body, called tender points. Tender point locations include:
Fatigue and sleep disturbances
People with fibromyalgia often awaken tired, even though they seem to get plenty of sleep. Experts believe that these people rarely reach the deep restorative stage of sleep. Sleep disorders that have been linked to fibromyalgia include restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea.
Many people who have fibromyalgia also may have:
Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia
The American College of Rheumatology has established two criteria for the diagnosis of fibromyalgia:
During your physical exam, your doctor may check specific places on your body for tenderness. The amount of pressure used during this exam is usually just enough to whiten the doctor's fingernail bed. These 18 tender points are a hallmark for fibromyalgia.
While there is no lab test to confirm a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, your doctor may want to rule out other conditions that may have similar symptoms. Blood tests may include:
Treatments of Fibromyalgia
In general, treatments for fibromyalgia include both medication and self-care. The emphasis is on minimizing symptoms and improving general health.
Medications can help reduce the pain of fibromyalgia and improve sleep. Common choices include: