What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a common neurologic health problem that causes widespread pain and tenderness in the body. It is accompanied by fatigue, disturbances in thought and memory, low moods, and extreme anxiety about the physical symptoms (somatic symptoms).
Fibromyalgia affects approximately five million Americans every year and mostly affects women, although some men may also be affected by it. Fibromyalgia commonly affects middle-aged individuals; however, children may also be affected at times.
What are the causes of fibromyalgia?
Causes of fibromyalgia are unclear; however, researchers have claimed that there’s an involvement of the nervous system, particularly the central nervous system. Fibromyalgia is not due to autoimmune, inflammation, joint, or muscle disorder. There may be some trigger factors that prompt fibromyalgia and other health problems, which include:
What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?
The core symptoms of fibromyalgia involve:
- Widespread pain throughout the body
- Sleep disturbances
- Tenderness on touching
- Poor attention span or memory
Other less common symptoms include:
- Depression or anxiety
- Numbness, tingling, prickling, or burning sensation in both arms and legs
- Digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome or gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Pelvic pain
- Face or jaw pain
- Jaw clicking and ringing in the ears
- Joint stiffness
- Painful menstrual periods
- Painful bladder syndrome
- Dry eyes
How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?
The physician may diagnose fibromyalgia based on the symptoms. The physician may examine for symptoms such as longstanding body pain and tenderness before confirming fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia does not show any abnormalities in the routine lab tests; hence, physicians may recommend tests only to rule out other health problems.
Criteria needed for diagnosing fibromyalgia are as follows:
How is fibromyalgia treated?
There’s no treatment for fibromyalgia as such, although symptoms may be managed with medications and alternative treatment.
Alternative treatment or nondrug therapies along with medications can treat the symptoms. The most common non-drug therapies include:
- Physical exercise
- Regular aerobic exercise
- Tai chi
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction
Complementary and alternative medicine:
- Massage therapy
Trigger factors should also be addressed while treating fibromyalgia.
Medications such as Cymbalta (duloxetine), Savella (milnacipran), and Lyrica (pregabalin) have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for fibromyalgia. They alter brain chemicals (serotonin and norepinephrine) to control pain levels. The physician may also prescribe the following medications:
- Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Motrin (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxen), and Tylenol (acetaminophen)
- Opioid medication, such as Ultram (tramadol) for short-term use
- Sleep-inducing medications such as Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine), Elavil (amitriptyline), Neurontin (gabapentin), or Lyrica (pregabalin)
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