Fibromyalgia is nine times more common in women than men.
Fibromyalgia is a central nervous system disorder that increases painful sensations in the inflammatory pathways in the brain. Often referred to as FM or FMS, fibromyalgia is characterized by continual musculoskeletal pain throughout the body. Symptoms can include fatigue, sleep problems, and cognitive or psychological issues such as depression and confusion. Unusual sensitivity to pressure, known as allodynia, is another common characteristic of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia affects nearly 6 million people in America. The disorder occurs predominantly in women.
Fibromyalgia Risk Factors
While the root cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, a combination of environmental and genetic factors may contribute to the development of fibromyalgia. Brain abnormalities in fibromyalgia patients may be the cause of the disorder or an indication of an underlying problem. Fibromyalgia is also associated with other chronic syndromes and major depressive disorder. Risk factors for fibromyalgia include:
- Childhood stress
- Prolonged stress
- Family history
Additionally, fibromyalgia is often present with the following disorders:
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PSTD)
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Tension headaches
- Rheumatoid arthritis
The symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary but almost always include chronic pain and fatigue, as well as an unusual sensitivity to pressure. Symptoms include:
- Nerve pain
- Widespread muscle pain
- Localized pain, often in shoulders, neck, or back
- Muscle spasms
- Sleep disruption
- Memory difficulty
- Inability to multitask
- Cognitive overload
- Impaired concentration
- Depression or anxiety
Fibromyalgia Diagnosis and Treatment
There is no definitive test for fibromyalgia, and lab results may appear normal or inconclusive. Fibromyalgia is typically diagnosed through a physical examination, which tends to focus on a history of widespread pain and the identification of tender points on the body. Treatment is focused on symptom management. Exercise, cognitive behavioral therapy, and prescription medication such as anti-depressants can help to alleviate fibromyalgia symptoms.
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