Although generating a range of symptoms, Fibromyalgia is mainly defined as a chronic condition that causes pain throughout the entire body.
Known as fibromyalgia, fibromyalgia syndrome, and by its initials FM and FMS, sufferers of the disease are known to have consistent muscle pain throughout all muscle groups and a heightened sensation response. This means that things that would not normally cause physical discomfort in healthy people do so in fibromyalgia patients.
It’s a particularly widespread medical disorder - estimated to affect up to 5% of the global population. Although fibromyalgia can strike at any point in a person’s life, it mainly occurs between the ages of 30 to 65 and statistically, occurrences of fibromyalgia are nine times more likely in women.
Whilst the causes of fibromyalgia cannot specifically be identified, what are widely believed to play a part in triggering the onset are things like: genetics, stress (and post-traumatic stress), dopamine dysfunction (the neurotransmitter that’s involved in pain perception), depression, abnormal serotonin metabolism (the neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep patterns), and hormonal imbalances.
The simplest explanation for the cause of fibromyalgia is to do with the way pain messages are transmitted and registered. As pain receptivity is handled by the central nervous system, if there are ‘signalling’ problems; then the whole body is affected.
There are also plenty of symptoms that are not clear as to whether they are the result, or the cause of fibromyalgia.
Apart from widespread pain, other common fibromyalgia symptoms may include depression, headaches, cognitive impairment, tiredness, sleep disruption, joint stiffness, general numbness, and bladder abnormalities.
The structure and function of people’s brains with fibromyalgia is different. Whether fibromyalgia causes this change or whether the condition occurs as a result; we don’t yet know. The same could be said about depression and fibromyalgia – whether it’s a cause or the effect is not yet established.
As there are all sorts of symptoms for fibromyalgia, it’s only generally identified after many other conditions have been ruled out.
Determining whether people suffer from the condition is down to deduction – slowly eliminating causes of the many symptoms is the only way it can be identified correctly.
The generally accepted yardstick is if you’re experiencing pain in both sides of your body for over three months and there’s pain in key points of your body – known as ‘tender points’, when pressed. If the answer to these is yes, then you may have fibromyalgia.
If you’re suspected of having the disorder, a doctor will be able to carry out the necessary tests.
There are plenty of available treatments for the condition ranging from mild to stronger painkillers, antidepressants and sleep aids, right through to alternative medicines like acupuncture. Treatments like physiotherapy and the most simple of all – regular exercise - have shown positive results in many cases.
The severity and type of symptoms experienced will determine the treatment. As with any medical abnormalities, it’s always best to go to your doctor in the first instance.
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