What are symptoms of Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that can cause multiple symptoms. A patient with fibromyalgia may have just one or many of these symptoms. Patients often experience pain that moves throughout the body, including the muscles and joints, especially over the muscles of the upper back, neck, and shoulders. The body can be very sensitive to touch, a simple hug or embrace may be very uncomfortable or even painful. Along with widespread pain of muscles and or joints, patients often experience fatigue or a feeling of exhaustion. Headaches are common, including migraine headaches. Patients often experience poor sleep, including insomnia and feeling unrested when waking in the morning. Other symptoms may include numbness and tingling. Patients can also experience problems with memory or thinking clearly, known as “fibro-fog.”
Fibromyalgia is more common in women, but can also affect men. Fibromyalgia can sometimes be associated with other conditions including arthritis and autoimmune diseases.
What other conditions are associated with Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia can be associated with other medical conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, which can cause constipation, diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, and nausea. Chronic pelvic pain can be associated with fibromyalgia, including interstitial cystitis, which can mimic symptoms of a bladder infection. Migraine headaches are often seen in fibromyalgia, as well as chronic fatigue syndrome. Depression or other mood conditions including stress and anxiety can be frequent, and when present can make symptoms of fibromyalgia worse.
How is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?
Fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose because there is no single lab test, or imaging study that can test for this condition. In addition, the symptoms also may change and vary in location and intensity, and this can also complicate the picture.
It is common for patients to feel frustrated and dismissed when they are told by doctors that all of their tests are normal and that ‘nothing is wrong.’ Many patients end up seeing multiple specialists such as neurologists, endocrinologists, or pain specialists looking for answers.
Fibromyalgia is a clinical diagnosis to be made by a doctor experienced with the condition, and other conditions which can mimic the symptoms. Part of the evaluation is assessing for other medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, infections, or thyroid disease which can cause many of the same features. A rheumatologist who specialized in diagnosing and treating this condition is often consulted.
How is Fibromyalgia Treated?
Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia, it can be treated with a combination of medications and other regimens that may include: physical or aquatic therapy, tender point injections, and low impact exercise programs. Not all treatments will work for every patient with fibromyalgia.
A Rheumatologist can work to find the best combination of treatments. At times it is helpful to target therapy according to specific symptoms like, problems sleeping (insomnia), mood disorders or sensitivity to touch. With therapy, patients can often enjoy improvements in pain, mood, and daily function.
Most patients will say that the most important part of treatment is having a doctor who listens to their symptoms, takes them seriously, and tailors treatment to their needs.
*For persistent pain that is interfering with your daily activities, see a rheumatologist to make the correct diagnosis and begin the proper treatment.