Fibromyalgia is a common cause of pain that is spread throughout the body, affecting muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Outside of pain, Fibromyalgia may also be associated with fatigue, mood difficulties, and sometimes cognitive difficulties.
Fibromyalgia is relatively common, present in about 2 to 3 percent of people. The incidence tends to increase with age. It affects women more than men, typically between the ages of 20 and 55 years old.Other conditions tend to cluster with Fibromyalgia, including irritable bowel syndrome and migraine.
In this condition, there is no direct evidence of inflammation in the affected tissues and there is no obvious structural abnormality. While this diagnosis has been controversial and a precise cause has not been identified, the latest research suggests that fibromyalgia is a disorder of pain regulation and processing. It is thought that the nervous system becomes over sensitized to pain signal input.
The fundamental symptoms of fibromyalgia include widespread pain for at least 3 months, fatigue, and sleep difficulties. These symptoms must not be explained by an alternative medication condition
- Even minor exertion or activity may result in fatigue
- A person may feel unrefreshed even in the morning after quality sleep
Sleep may be “light” with frequent waking during the early morning
Other common symptoms include a mental “fog” mild cognitive impairment, depression, anxiety, headache, tingling sensation, or other non-specific symptoms
A Neurologist will take a detailed history and physical exam. The provider will ensure that there is no alternative diagnosis that is causing the symptoms. At times, simple blood work may be pursued to rule out inflammatory conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, thyroid disease, or others. At this point, the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia can be met without necessarily needing other invasive or expensive testing. At times, referrals may be pursued with other specialists including Sleep Medicine or Psychiatry, if assistance is needed with addressing sleep difficulties or mood symptoms.
In Fibromyalgia, the treatment is targeted at symptom control. This often involves medications and non-medication-based approaches. People with Fibromyalgia often benefit from a multidisciplinary treatment that is individualized to the particular case.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic life-long condition for which there are many treatments that can help control the symptoms. It is non-life threatening. It is not due to any underlying infectious or inflammatory process. While most people with fibromyalgia continue to have some degree of chronic pain and fatigue, many people can be effectively treated to continue to live productive and independent lives with quality of life.
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