What is Fibromyalgia ?
Fibromyalgia, a chronic neurological disorder, is characterized by widespread pain, tenderness, fatigue, and various other symptoms. It predominantly affects middle-aged women but can impact individuals of any gender and age. Approximately 2-4 percent of the population may experience fibromyalgia. The term itself refers to pain in muscles and fibrous tissues such as tendons and ligaments. While fibromyalgia is considered medically benign as it does not cause physical deformities or risk life-threatening complications, it significantly impairs patients' quality of life by hindering their daily activities and cognitive functioning including thinking, reasoning, and memory. Diagnosis involves careful examination and ruling out other diseases with similar symptoms. Unfortunately, there is no cure for fibromyalgia; however, support from healthcare professionals can have a positive impact on patients' well-being. Therefore, it is crucial that all professionals involved in managing fibromyalgia possess specific knowledge about the disease to effectively assist patients.
What exactly is Fibromyalgia? It's a chronic neurological disorder that results in widespread pain, tenderness, fatigue, and a range of other symptoms. Although more common among middle-aged women, Fibromyalgia can affect anyone regardless of age or gender. Roughly 2-4 percent of the population may be impacted by this condition. The term fibromyalgia literally means muscular and fibrous tissue (tendons and ligaments) pain. While not causing severe physical deformities or endangering lives directly, Fibromyalgia has a profound impact on patients' quality of life due to its interference with everyday activities and cognitive functions like thinking ability, reasoning skills, and memory retention. Accurate diagnosis involves thorough examination while excluding other diseases presenting similar symptoms. Unfortunately for sufferers of Fibromyalgia there isn't currently any known cure; however medical professionals providing support can greatly enhance patients' overall well-being. Therefore, it is vital that all healthcare practitioners involved in managing Fibromyalgia possess specific knowledge regarding the disease in order to effectively aid patients.
Fibromyalgia is a syndrome combined with several signs and symptoms that includes:
Pain: There are widespread different types of pain in body which are not consistent and may vary in severity and location. There are days when person may not feel pain at all.
Fatigue: People with fibromyalgia often feel tired; even after awakening from long duration of sleep. Sleep is often disrupted by pain, restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea.
Cognitive difficulties: Cognitive difficulties that can occur with fibromyalgia are commonly termed as "fibro fog". It can manifest in different ways such as:
- short term memory loss
- forgetting plans
- misplacing objects
- becoming easily distracted
- difficulty carrying conversations
- inability to remember new information
Sometimes difficulty of mental alertness can be more devastating than the pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia. Some patients also may have:
- depression or anxiety
- migraine or tension headaches
- digestive problems: irritable bowel syndrome
- gastro-esophageal reflux disease
- irritable or overactive bladder
- pelvic pain
- Temporomandibular disorder
Tender points- There are certain points which are tender (pain with pressure).The fibromyalgia tender points are symmetrical; they are present on both sides of the body. These tender points are very small. All of them are around joints, (but fibromyalgia pain has nothing to do with the joints themselves).
The tender point locations are:
- Front lower sides of neck
- Upper chest
- Inner elbows
- Just above inner knees
- Back of your head
- Top of the shoulders
- Upper back (at shoulder blades)
- Upper buttock
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is not clear. It is not an autoimmune, inflammatory, joint, or muscle disorder; though some factors such as spine problem, arthritis, injury, or other type of physical stress even emotional stress may trigger this illness.
More recently, fibromyalgia has been described as ‘central pain amplification disorder’, meaning the volume of pain sensation in the brain is turned up too high. There is abnormal pain processing particularly in the central nervous system rather than from dysfunction in peripheral tissues where pain is perceived. There is a change in the way the body communicates with the spinal cord and brain.
Though genes alone do not cause fibromyalgia, but there may be certain genes that can make people more prone to getting fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia may run in families.
There is no diagnostic test for fibromyalgia; therefore disease is diagnosed by examining the patient, evaluating symptoms, and ruling out other conditions. There are some conditions that can be confused with fibromyalgia such as hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, polymyalgia rheumatica and other inflammatory and autoimmune disorders. Physical findings and blood tests will help the medical expert to differentiate these diseases.
A fibromyalgia diagnosis is often made when a patient has unexplained pain for at least 3 months; and at least 11 of 18 tender points in specific locations are tender (even light pressure can cause pain) (though the presence of tender points is not specific reason for making diagnosis); and no other health problem is detected that could explain the pain and other symptoms.
These tender points should not be confused with trigger points, which are associated with chronic myofascial pain. The primary difference between tender points and trigger points is that trigger points can produce referred pain (they can cause pain in other parts of the body).When doctor tests tender points for pain, other non-tender places on body called control points are also tested to make sure the reaction of a person about tenderness.
A number of things that make symptoms worse can be avoided such as
- Anxiety ,depression
- Changes in weather (cold and humidity)
- Fatigue, physical exhaustion
- Hormonal changes(premenstrual syndrome)
- Lack of sleep
- Emotional stress
- Not moving enough