Fibromyalgia

Overview

Fibromyalgia is a common chronic pain disorder. Fibromyalgia is a syndrome rather than a disease. A disease has a medical condition with a specific cause or causes and recognizable signs and symptoms, whereas a syndrome is a collection of signs, symptoms, and medical problems that tend to occur together but are not related to a specific cause that can be identified.

Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic widespread pain, multiple tender points, abnormal pain processing, sleep disturbances, fatigue and often psychological distress. In extreme cases of fibromyalgia, it can be debilitating and interfere with normal daily activities.

Causes

The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, however, researchers continue to make new discoveries that get us closer to finding the cause. Research studies show that genetic factors may predispose individuals to a genetic susceptibility to fibromyalgia. For some individuals, fibromyalgia is slow, however, in a large percentage of patients the onset is triggered by an illness or injury that causes trauma to the body.

Symptoms

People with fibromyalgia experience chronic widespread body pain. Most people also experience moderate to extreme fatigue, sleep disturbances, cognitive difficulties, and sensitivity to touch, light, and sound. There can also be an overlap of conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, lupus and arthritis. Other symptoms include:

Pain- The pain experienced with fibromyalgia is profound, chronic and widespread. It can travel to all parts of the body with varying intensity. The pain associated with fibromyalgia has been described as a stabbing and shooting pain with deep muscular aching, throbbing, and twitching. There are also neurological complaints, such as numbness, tingling, and burning. The pain is often worse in the morning. There are other factors that can affect pain, including: cold/humid weather, non-restorative sleep, physical and mental fatigue, excessive physical activity, anxiety and stress.

Fatigue- The fatigue experienced with fibromyalgia is an all-encompassing exhaustion that can interfere with all aspects of life (occupational, personal, social and educational activities).

Sleep problems- People with fibromyalgia can experience sleep disorders that prevents them from getting deep, restful sleep. During sleep, people with fibromyalgia are frequently interrupted by bursts of awake-like brain activity, limiting the amount of time they spend in deep sleep.
In addition to the symptoms above, people with fibromyalgia can also experience headaches or migraines, restless leg syndrome, impaired memory and concentration, skin sensitivities and rashes, dry eyes and mouth, ringing in the ears, anxiety, depression, dizziness, vision problems, Raynaud’s Syndrome, neurological symptoms and impaired coordination.

Treatment

The treatments for fibromyalgia focus on pain management, sleep management and psychological support.