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All about Fibromyalgia

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a condition marked by extensive musculoskeletal pain along with fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood problems. According to researchers, fibromyalgia multiplies painful sensations by influencing the way your spinal cord and brain process painful and non-painful signals. People suffering from fibromyalgia generally experience symptoms that come and go in periods known as flare-ups. Every so often, it can be exhausting and challenging to maneuver living with fibromyalgia. The gaps between feeling good and suddenly having a flare-up of symptoms might be overwhelming for you.

What are the Types of Fibromyalgia?

Types of fibromyalgia pain include:

Hyperalgesia: Hyperalgesia is the medical name for the amplified sense of pain you feel because of fibromyalgia. Scientists are yet to fully understand this disorder but it’s believed that the brains of people with fibromyalgia are more sensitive to pain signals.

Widespread muscle pain and fatigue: Widespread muscle pain is the main symptom of fibromyalgia which can make you feel like you have the flu or “pain all over.”

Most of people with fibromyalgia usually tend to experience:

  • Low back pain, spreading into the buttocks and legs
  • Pain and tightness in the neck spreading across the back of the shoulders
  • Pain between the shoulder blades
  • Pain in the breastbone and rib cage

Temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ): One of the most common problems in people with fibromyalgia is pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). The temporomandibular joint links your jaw to your skull on either side of your face. TMJ pain can be usually described as a dull, persistent ache affecting the ear, eyes, temple, lower jaw, or neck.

Allodynia: Allodynia is a type of skin pain where even the lightest touch might hurt. According to researchers central sensitization leads to allodynia which means the brain, nerves, and spinal cord overreact to sensations.

Neuropathic pain: Neuropathic pain results in feelings of tingling, crawling, itching, burning, or numbness in the arms and legs. In extreme cases, these sensations might be painful which is linked with another type of pain called neoplastic pain, which occurs due to altered pain processing in the nervous system.

Headaches: Both tension headaches and migraines are quite common among people with fibromyalgia. Tension headaches result in a dull, tightening pressure sensation across the head. While nagging and uncomfortable, generally they are not disabling. Migraines are more painful and usually happen on one side of the head and might be connected with light and sound sensitivity.

Digestive pain: This is a digestive disorder that leads to cramping, constipation, belly pain, diarrhoea, and nausea. It’s estimated that nearly 70% of people with fibromyalgia are also diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS is usually difficult to treat, but lifestyle strategies and some medications are often effective.

Pelvic pain: Along with abdominal pain, women with fibromyalgia might feel pelvic pain, which includes bladder pain. It can cause an increased urge to urinate and/or frequent urination.

What are the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

The symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  • Muscle pain or tenderness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Face and jaw pain.
  • Headaches and migraines.
  • Digestive problems, which include diarrhoea and constipation.
  • Bladder control problems.

Fibromyalgia may also lead to mental and emotional symptoms, including:

  • Memory issues.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Insomnia and other sleep problems.

What are the Causes of Fibromyalgia?

Experts are yet to know the cause of fibromyalgia. However, it’s believed that some specific genes you inherit from your biological parents may make you more prone to develop fibromyalgia. Studies have found a connection between biological parents who have fibromyalgia and their children — this may imply that it’s passed down through families.

People with fibromyalgia are generally more sensitive to pain compared to most people. Researchers haven’t found the direct link yet, but they believe genetic mutations in the genes that are responsible for creating the neurotransmitters in your brain that broadcast and receive pain signals to your body may cause fibromyalgia.

What are the Risk Factors of Fibromyalgia?

The risk factors for fibromyalgia include:

Sex: Fibromyalgia is found more often in women than in men.

Family history: You have an increased risk of developing fibromyalgia if you have a parent or sibling with it.

Other disorders: Other conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus, increase the risk of developing fibromyalgia.

What are the Complications of Fibromyalgia?

The pain, fatigue, and poor sleep quality that come with fibromyalgia can affect your ability to work at home or on the job. The frustration of dealing with an often misunderstood condition can also cause depression and health-related anxiety.

How Fibromyalgia is Diagnosed?

Fibromyalgia can be diagnosed by your doctor with a physical exam followed by getting information about your health history. Your doctor will also ask questions about your symptoms and when you first experienced them.

There’s no particular test to diagnose fibromyalgia. Generally, diagnosis is part of a differential diagnosis, a medical procedure of elimination. Your doctor will make a diagnosis by comparing various conditions with related symptoms. This procedure helps in your final diagnosis.

Your doctor might prescribe some blood tests to rule out other common causes of fatigue such as anaemia or problems with your thyroid gland.

What are the Treatment Options Available for Fibromyalgia?

The treatment of fibromyalgia varies according to person to person and there isn’t a single treatment that works for every person. Your doctor will make a treatment plan with you to find a combination of treatments that manage your symptoms. You should give information about the symptoms you’re experiencing when they change and whether the symptoms are getting better or worse.

Treatments your doctor will provide might include:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medicine to control pain.
  • Exercises such as stretches or strength training.
  • Sleep therapy.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy.
  • Stress management therapy.
  • Antidepressants.

Living with Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia causes pain across your body along with making you fatigued. There’s no cure available for fibromyalgia, and the treatment is available to relieve your symptoms. Living with a chronic condition such as fibromyalgia can be overwhelming and stressful. You should discuss with your doctor about managing stress and how to maintain a positive self-image.

Whom to Consult?

Any new pain in your body is usually the first symptom of fibromyalgia — particularly if it’s in your muscles. If you’re noticing new pain, fatigue, and other symptoms — even if it feels like they come and go, then consult with your doctor.

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