Naturally Treating CFS & Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia — An Elusive Illness
Millions of Americans are affected by fibromyalgia, a mysterious debilitating disorder. Here's what is known so far about its symptoms, causes, and risk factors.
By Katherine Lee
Medically Reviewed by Ed Zimney, MD
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Fibromyalgia is a widely misunderstood and sometimes misdiagnosed chronic condition, commonly characterized by widespread muscle pain, fatigue, concentration issues, and sleep problems. According to the National Fibromyalgia Association, it affects an estimated 10 million people, mainly women, in the United States alone. The severity of fibromyalgia symptoms can vary from one person to the next and may fluctuate even in a single individual, depending on such factors as time of day or the weather. Because it is a chronic condition, in most cases fibromyalgia symptoms never disappear entirely. The good news is that fibromyalgia isn't progressive or life-threatening, and treatments can help alleviate many symptoms.
Fibromyalgia: The Symptoms
The symptoms of fibromyalgia and their severity vary widely, although pain and fatigue are nearly always present. Major symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
Pain.Some fibromyalgia patients report discomfort in one or more specific areas of their body, while others may experience overall pain in their muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Certain areas, such as the back of the head, upper back and neck, elbows, hips, and knees may be particularly sensitive to touch or pressure and are described clinically as tender points. The degree and type of pain can range from aching, tenderness, and throbbing to sharper shooting and stabbing sensations. Intense burning, numbness, and tingling may also be present.
Fatigue.If you've ever been knocked off your feet by a bad case of the flu, you have a general idea of how tired some people with fibromyalgia can feel. Though some fibromyalgia patients experience only mild fatigue, many report feeling completely drained of energy, both physically and mentally, to the point that exhaustion interferes with all daily activities.
Memory problems.Difficulty concentrating and remembering are common cognitive symptoms in people with fibromyalgia.
Sleep disturbances.Research has shown that the deepest stages of sleep in patients with fibromyalgia are constantly interrupted by bursts of brain activity, causing feelings of exhaustion even after a seemingly good night's rest. Other problems such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and teeth grinding (bruxism) are also common among fibromyalgia sufferers.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).Symptoms of IBS, including diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, and bloating, are present in many people with fibromyalgia.
Other common symptoms
- Headaches, migraines, and facial pain
- Depression, anxiety, or mood changes
- Painful menstrual periods
- Dry mouth, eyes, and skin
- Heightened sensitivity to noise, odors, bright lights, and touch
The following factors can worsen the symptoms of fibromyalgia:
- Changes in weather (too cold or too humid)
- Too much or too little exercise
- Too much or too little rest
- Stress and anxiety
Some patients also report that pain and stiffness are worse in the morning.
Causes of Fibromyalgia
While the exact cause of fibromyalgia remains a mystery, doctors do know that patients with the disorder experience an increased sensation of pain due to a glitch in the central nervous system's processing of pain information. Studies have shown that people with fibromyalgia also have certain physiological abnormalities, such as elevated levels of certain chemicals called nuerotransmitters that help transmit pain signals (thus amplifying, or "turning up," the signals in the brain's pain-processing areas).
In some cases, an injury or trauma, especially to the cervical spine, or a bacterial or viral illness, may precede a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. This has caused researchers to speculate that infections may be triggers as well.
Fibromyalgia Risk Factors
A number of factors can increase the odds that you may develop fibromyalgia. These include:
Gender.Fibromyalgia is more common among women than men.
Age.Symptoms usually appear during middle age, but can also manifest in children and older adults.
History of rheumatic disease.People who have been diagnosed with a rheumatic disorder — chronic inflammatory conditions — such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are at increased risk of also developing fibromyalgia.
Family history.Having a relative who suffers from fibromyalgia puts you at increased risk.
Sleep problems.Doctors aren't sure whether sleep disturbances are a cause or a symptom of fibromyalgia — but sleep disorders, including restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea have been cited as possible fibromyalgia triggers.
When to Seek Help for Fibromyalgia
If you experience pain in your muscles that lasts for several months and is accompanied by significant fatigue, see your doctor.
Video: THE FIBROMYALGIA MYSTERY IS SOLVED AT LAST!
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