FAQ’s on Fibromyalgia
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia (FM) is a set of collective symptoms, causing it to be diagnosed commonly as a syndrome. Patients with FM are more likely to experience symptoms similar to those found in tendinitis, bursitis, osteoarthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and depression. There are currently over 12 million Americans who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, the majority of which are women between the ages of 25 and 60. Behind osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia is the second most commonly diagnosed musculoskeletal disorder.
What are the causes of Fibromyalgia?
The exact causes of fibromyalgia, both of why it occurs and how it develops, remain unknown. Research is continually being made into the condition to discover these, with a number of emerging theories about individual factors that contribute to the presence of fibromyalgia. General researcher consensus is that fibromyalgia is a polygenic condition requiring containing aspects of hormonal imbalance, improper blood flow, and alterations of specific areas of the brain. All these together are thought to trigger fibromyalgia when affected by an outside influence, which can consist of trauma, environmental factors, or both.
One of the largest theories about the cause of fibromyalgia deals with the hormone serotonin, which can increase sensitivity to pain when amounts are too low. Generally, women have as much as 10 times less serotonin than men, which may be a strong indicator of why fibromyalgia occurs so much more often in women. Other studies areas include improper blood flow into the areas of the brain that manage pain, changes in the way opioid receptors function, and hyperactivity of the central nervous system which can make patients much more susceptible to pain stimuli that would otherwise not produce a reaction.
What are the symptoms of Fibromyalgia?
As a whole, patients will have widespread pain and fatigue throughout their body. Patients will also have a number of tender areas on their muscles and joints which cause pain when touched. These are called tender points, and are one of the strongest indicators that fibromyalgia is present in patients. For some patients, fibromyalgia will affect their sleep patterns and may produce cognitive slowness, depression, and anxiety.
Patients with fibromyalgia often experience interrupted sleep, which can take the form of frequent waking or sleep that does not achieve the cycles of restoration patients need. Improper sleep, or sleep that is not deep enough, can leave patients feeling both mentally and physically fatigued upon waking. Approximately three-quarters of fibromyalgia patients are diagnosed with depression as their condition progresses.
How is Fibromyalgia diagnosed?
Diagnosis for fibromyalgia occurs on an individual basis, with the unique symptoms of the patient measured against a known table of criteria that warrants whether or not fibromyalgia may be diagnosed. The first step performed by physicians prior to this however is to test for other conditions that may be producing the symptoms for the patient, such as osteoarthritis.
Once other potential conditions have been ruled out, the Jacksonville physician will check for acceptable criteria, which includes widespread pain that has persisted for longer than for three months and tender points in at least 11 of the 18 known locations.
What are the treatment options for Fibromyalgia?
There is no single cure for fibromyalgia, nor are there any treatments that are able to account for every aspect of fibromyalgia on their own. Instead, treatment is administered as a multi-disciplinary approach focusing on symptomatic management. Medications, behavioral alterations, and exercise can each assist in providing relief. Medication is taken both for direct pain relief, with three medications currently approved in the treatment of fibromyalgia.
Exercise can help patients to build their energy reserves, and can help to loosen the joints to help provide pain relief. Behavioral alterations such as changes in sleep patterns and teaching the patient coping techniques can each help to circumvent feelings of depression and fatigue.