Fibromyalgia (FM) is a disorder which causes chronic pain throughout the body. It may also cause fatigue and sleep disturbances, which in turn can lead to depression. The National Fibromyalgia Association identifies fibromyalgia as a syndrome rather than a disease. By their definition, a disease has definite symptoms and a specific cause. A syndrome has a collection of symptoms which may cause medical problems, but they are not related to an identifiable cause.
Many people with FM have spent years going from one doctor to another in search of an explanation for the pain they feel, but since there are no specific laboratory tests for fibromyalgia, the diagnosis must be made on the basis of clinical observations. According to Mayo Clinic, the presence of tenderness at specific points over the body is a strong indicator of fibromyalgia and may be sufficient for a diagnosis if other causes of the persistent pain have been ruled out.
Causes of Fibromyalgia
No one knows exactly what causes fibromyalgia, but it tends to run in families. Women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men, and the risk of developing it increases with age. It is suspected that infections or trauma may trigger it, but this theory has not been proved.
Treatment of Fibromyalgia
New prescription drugs to treat fibromyalgia pain are available, but drug therapy is only one part of a comprehensive treatment program. Stretching and regular, gentle exercise are key components in managing pain and avoiding stiffness. Getting enough rest is also important. If lack of sleep is a problem, medications can be prescribed to help. Physical therapy, massage, acupuncture and yoga can be helpful adjuncts to standard treatment.
In spite of the help available from the medical community, the day-to-day work of managing the chronic pain of fibromyalgia must be done by the patient. Self help must begin upon diagnosis. Each person has to find the combination of medicines and therapies that work best for him or her. Some changes in life style may be necessary, and a more relaxed attitude cultivated. The support and understanding of family and friends is important in order to avoid the depression which sometimes comes from dealing with a chronic condition.
At the present time, there is no cure for fibromyalgia, but it is no longer being ignored or treated as a figment of the patient’s imagination. According to the National Fibromyalgia Association, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved three new drugs for the treatment of FM since 2007, and others are on the way. In addition, there is more research being done on FM now than at any time in the past.