Knowing the different symptoms of fibromyalgia is important for better understanding of the disease and its ill effects.
Fibromyalgia is a disease that affects the muscles and ligaments. This disorder causes chronic pain in the affected muscles and ligaments. This illness commonly affects women who are in their mid-30s to late-50s. In addition to pain and stiffness in the muscles, this disorder also causes sleep problems, depression, fatigue (See: Chronic Fatigue Symptoms), and inability to think clearly.
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is known as an idiopathic disease. The symptoms of fibromyalgia just occur without any known cause. However, certain studies have revealed certain facts about the disorder. New discoveries have shown that the disease processes pain differently. A study has shown that a certain neurotransmitter found in the cerebrospinal fluid transmits pain impulses to the brain differently from other diseases. Fibromyalgia is said to send pain impulses three times more compared to people who don’t have the condition. This causes the affected person to experience a more-intense pain.
Other studies have shown that fibromyalgia is because of the lack of deep sleep. When a person reaches the deep sleep stage or Stage 4 of sleep, this is when the muscles recover from the day’s activity. People may say they have slept for long periods of time; however, the quality of sleep may be poor. Furthermore, researchers with the use of volunteers during an experiment, they did not allow them to have deep sleep. This caused the volunteers to develop similar symptoms of fibromyalgia.
What are the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?
Pain is one the most prominent fibromyalgia symptoms. The discomfort can be felt in the muscles and ligaments unlike arthritis wherein pain is felt in the joints. The pain is also widespread. The most common locations of pain include: the hips (See: Hip pain), shoulders, neck (See: neck pain relief), and back. The tenderness is described to be flu-like, stabbing, throbbing, aching, and burning, and it is said to be worse during the morning.
Fatigue occurs in most patients. The severity ranges from mild to incapacitating. Patients with fibromyalgia are often wake up in the morning without the feeling of being fully rested, even having an adequate amount of sleep. In some cases, patients awaken with aching muscles and having the feeling of working out all night.
Over half of fibromyalgia patients report having mental and/or emotional disturbances. Symptoms of these include: anxiety, depression, irritability, poor concentration, mood changes, and forgetfulness. This symptom that occurs with fibromyalgia is referred to as fibrofog. Since fibromyalgia has no confirmatory laboratory tests, depression associated with fibromyalgia is mistakenly diagnosed as mainly depression.
Tension headaches, migraines, and tingling or numbness of different body parts are other symptoms of fibromyalgia. Bladder and colon problems (See: Signs of Colon Cancer) may also occur with this disease such as: abdominal pain due to spastic colon, and painful and frequent urination. Other symptoms such as insomnia and dizziness may occur.
The symptoms mentioned above may occur in combinations or intermittently making each fibromyalgia patient unique.
How is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?
There no tests that can specifically diagnose fibromyalgia. Even X-rays and blood tests can’t confirm the suspicion. They are only done to rule out other possible diseases. The diagnosis of fibromyalgia depends mainly on results of the history and physical examinations made by the doctor. In patients who are experiencing chronic, widespread body pain, identifying areas where tenderness exists can help diagnose fibromyalgia. Typically, at least 11 to 18 tender points exist in fibromyalgia patients. Tender points are also examined for inflammation or any sign of other diseases that mimic fibromyalgia. Diseases that mimic fibromyalgia include: vitamin D deficiency, hypothyroidism (See: hypothyroidism symptoms), Parathyroid disease, cancer, and other muscle and bone diseases.
Even though a blood test doesn’t confirm the diagnosis of fibromyalgia, it is still important to rule out other medical conditions. An example would be doing a blood test to check for calcium and thyroid hormone blood levels to exclude hypothyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, and hypercalcemia. Liver tests and a complete blood count, or CBC, are also done to diagnose if an infection exists such as hepatitis.
How to Manage Fibromyalgia at Home
Since symptoms vary among patients, planning and treatment depends mainly on the symptoms experienced by each patient. The care plan is unique for each patient. However, treatment for each symptom is the same. For muscle pain, conditioning the muscles is important. Regular exercise helps decrease the discomfort. Exercises that strain the muscles, such as weight training, should be avoided. Low-stress exercises such as: aerobics, swimming, and walking would be best for fibromyalgia patients. Besides reducing the discomfort felt, exercise can also boost a person’s energy and can help with sleep.
Other ways to manage symptoms of fibromyalgia include methods to overcome stress including relaxation techniques and a light massage. Setting up an appointment with a physical therapist may be beneficial. They can help plan a treatment program and provide the appropriate exercises for this illness. Heat can also be applied to the affected muscle. The use of over-the-counter pain medications such as Ibuprofen also aid in the relief of discomfort.
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