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Living with Fibromyalgia

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Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread pain throughout the muscular and soft tissues of the body. In the United States, fibromyalgia is estimated to affect between 2 percent and 4 percent of the population, with 90 percent of those affected being women.

The Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia causes the entire body to ache. Patients with fibromyalgia have complained of burning, throbbing or stabbing sensations in their muscles and soft tissues. Soreness and stiffness in the muscles and joints may also be a complaint. Chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome and difficulty sleeping are also common symptoms, making the disorder more difficult to cope with. Often, depression or anxiety accompanies a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Patients may also complain of headaches, jaw pain or trouble urinating.

Because of the nature of fibromyalgia, people who have the condition are often trapped in what seems to be an unending cycle. The constant pain and fatigue can prevent them from working, exercising, sleeping properly or engaging in hobbies. This can lead to feelings of anxiety and isolation while negatively impacting their health. It is important to diagnose the condition early to ease fibromyalgia’s symptoms. Without an official diagnosis, someone who suffers from fibromyalgia may not fully understand their symptoms. This can impact their life in adverse ways.

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

A traumatic physical injury or emotional event may trigger symptoms of fibromyalgia. Although research is being done, the primary cause of fibromyalgia is not yet understood. The current understanding is that it is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain or in the way the central nervous system processes pain signals. As a result, patients are sensitive to stimuli that should not normally elicit a painful response. This hypersensitivity manifests itself in widespread pain, seemingly without a reason.

Diagnosis and Treatment

There is no fibromyalgia-specific test; instead, doctors rely on the patient’s description of how they feel. Patients may report tender points, pain that is distributed over the whole body, fatigue and other symptoms of fibromyalgia. Once the possibility of other conditions has been ruled out, treatment options are given. Fibromyalgia is usually treated by pain medication or antidepressants. Even though medication can ease some of the symptoms, patients are encouraged to embrace a healthy lifestyle in order to minimize symptoms. Regular exercise, healthy sleep habits, proper diet, and stress reduction are all essential to living with fibromyalgia.