A person suffering from Fibromyalgia will experience frequent occurrences of unexplained fatigue, as well as pain and tenderness in the muscles and tendons. There will be certain points in the body that are painful when subjected to slight pressure.
This disorder is prevalent in 2% of the American population, with more women prone to developing Fibromyalgia compared to men. The risk of acquiring the disorder increases with a person’s age. It usually follows a physical trauma or an emotional upheaval. In a number of cases, however, Fibromyalgia develops despite an absence of any of the known triggers.
FIBROMYALGIA SYMPTOMSFibromyalgia is characterized by pain and tenderness experienced in the areas behind the head, the sides of the neck, between a person’s shoulder blades, the top of the shoulders, upper chest, the exterior portions of the elbows, the upper sides of the hips, and the inner knees.
Apart from chronic widespread pain, Fibromyalgia sufferers experience a heightened painful response to simple touch, debilitating fatigue, a “pins and needles” sensation in the skin interspersed with episodes of numbness, as well as muscle spasms and nerve pain. The limbs of a person with Fibromyalgia often feel weak, and there may be instances of bowel disturbances that may occur.
FIBROMYALGIA CAUSESFibromyalgia also causes chronic sleep disturbances that are associated with the alpha-delta sleep phenomenon. This type of condition occurs when a person’s deep sleep, characterized by delta waves, is frequently disturbed by alpha waves that occur during a person’s near-to-waking period. This results in a disruption of a person’s deep sleep and contributes to the constant fatigue that Fibromyalgia sufferers experience.
Other symptoms of Fibromyalgia include having difficulty swallowing and breathing, cognitive impairment known as “brain fog”, short and long-term memory problems, the inability to multi-task, a short attention span, depression, and other anxiety-related disorders. To a lesser degree, sufferers may also experience eye pain and light sensitivity, blurring of vision, as well as impaired visual clarity that necessitates the frequent changing of prescription glasses.
These symptoms develop slowly over time, with a majority of patients acquiring a mild form of the symptoms during childhood. Some of these symptoms are exacerbated by weather changes or other ailments, and while the symptoms may be tolerable most of the time, there are instances when they can severely impair a person’s ability to perform their day-to-day tasks. Walking up the stairs or driving a car becomes impossible during the height of Fibromyalgia symptoms.
People who are frequently subject to emotional distress are prone to experience more severe manifestations of the disorder, as are people who have insomnia or who undergo mental stress. Fibromyalgia symptoms may worsen if a sufferer undertakes strenuous activity. Conversely, physical inactivity may also trigger heightened symptoms. Sudden changes in the weather can trigger a worsening of the symptoms; so can constant worrying, prolonged car travel, conflicts within the family or in the workplace, physical injuries, infections, and allergies.
There are many possible causes of Fibromyalgia. Genetic predisposition has been seen to play a role in its development. Stress has also been seen as a significant factor in the development of Fibromyalgia. People who are unable to experience slow-wave sleep are also more prone to the disorder compared to those who are able to achieve uninterrupted stage four sleep.
FIBROMYALGIA DIAGNOSISAnother hypothesis that has been associated with the development of Fibromyalgia is hypodopaminergia. This type of central dopamine dysfunction has to do with the delayed or disrupted neurotransmission of dopamine, a catecholamine neurotransmitter in the brain that is responsible for modulating a person’s perception of pain.
Another neurotransmitter known as serotonin has a role in regulating a person’s moods, concentration, sleep patterns, feelings of well-being, and inhibition of pain. A dysfunction in the metabolism of serotonin is thought to cause Fibromyalgia. A deficiency in human growth hormone secretion may cause reduction of slow-wave sleep, and is hypothesized to be one of the causes of the development of Fibromyalgia, as well.
There remains a great debate about how the medical community can go about diagnosing Fibromyalgia. It is difficult to pinpoint as most laboratory testing turns up with normal results for a majority of Fibromyalgia patients. In fact, symptoms of Fibromyalgia closely mimic other rheumatic ailments such as osteoporosis or arthritis. To enable a proper detection of the disorder, doctors resort to differential diagnosis, which involves listing down all the possible illnesses, diseases or disorders that the patient may have based on the patient’s gender, age, location, medical history, and symptoms, among many other factors. From the data gathered, the doctor then narrows down the diagnosis to the most likely ailment.
The American College of Rheumatology established the accepted criteria for diagnosing Fibromyalgia in 1990. Based on a set of criteria, the disorder may be diagnosed based on a patient’s symptoms of widespread pain that lasts for three months or longer, affecting all of the body’s four quadrants. The patient should also be able to feel tenderness in 11 of the 18 trigger points in the body.
FIBROMYALGIA TREATMENTThere is no definite cure for Fibromyalgia at present, and the various treatments for this disorder are meant to relieve, reduce and manage the symptoms of this ailment. Current developments in medication, exercise, behavioral intervention, as well as complementary and alternative medicines are constantly being put forward to improve Fibromyalgia management, particularly in treatments geared at alleviating pain symptoms.
Although it is not a fatal disease or a degenerative disorder, Fibromyalgia is chronic and pervasive. A majority of patients continue to experience the wide host of related symptoms that do not abate even with the passage of time. Most sufferers, approximately 30%, report that the severity of the symptoms interfered with their ability to work, cope with psychological distress, added to their feeling of helplessness, interfered with their education, and impaired their ability to perform daily tasks.