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Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia

Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is an increasingly common illness that, due its relatively new status as a medical condition, is often misunderstood. Even those who are diagnosed with this condition are sometimes unsure of specifics concerning causes, symptoms, and complications, as well as the many different types of fibromyalgia treatment. In fact, according to professionals in the medical community and the National Institute of Health, the exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. However, even though a cause can’t yet be pinpointed, continued research on fibromyalgia shows that certain individuals are at an increased risk for this disease. Research has also led to the development of a variety of treatments for this illness, which include pharmaceutical remedies, lifestyle changes and alternative therapies.

The following is an in-depth look at fibromyalgia, which includes information on possible causes, risk factors, various symptoms and methods used to treat fibromyalgia pain relief.

Symptoms and Possible Causes of Fibromyalgia

The most common symptom reported by fibromyalgia patients is chronic musculoskeletal pain that is often described as dull, deep, aching or throbbing. Pain is typically widespread, which means that it occurs in several areas of the body. Areas of pain are often called tender spots, many of which are common among fibromyalgia patients. Common tender spots for fibromyalgia pain include the back of the head, the inner knees, the elbows, the chest, the hips, the neck and the shoulders. Pain in these spots is usually chronic and worsens when pressure is applied.

In addition to pain in tender spots, many fibromyalgia patients suffer accompanying symptoms and illnesses like the following:

  • Chronic fatigue.
  • Insomnia and other sleep disorders.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Conditions of the female reproductive system, the most common of which is endometriosis.
  • Chronic headache or migraine.
  • Anxiety, depression or panic disorder.

When it comes to an exact cause of fibromyalgia, many experts believe the answer may lie in a number of factors that, combined, lead to the chronic pain associated with this illness. This is because a large percentage of fibromyalgia patients share commonalities in their medical histories, which often includes similarities concerning preexisting physical and psychological illnesses. The following lists possible causes and risk factors associated with fibromyalgia:

  • Sex. Many experts believe female reproductive hormones may be the reason why women are more often diagnosed with fibromyalgia than their male counterparts.
  • Family history. Having an immediate family member with fibromyalgia can increase an individual’s risk of developing this illness.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder. Many fibromyalgia patients have suffered severe psychological or physical trauma at some point in their lives.
  • Rheumatic diseases. Many patients suffered from rheumatic diseases, namely lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, prior to a fibromyalgia diagnosis.
  • Decreased pain threshold. Research shows that patients with fibromyalgia have an increased sensitivity to pain; however, the exact cause of this decreased pain threshold remains unknown.

Diagnosing Fibromyalgia

There are no known ways to definitively diagnosis fibromyalgia through the use of laboratory testing. Instead, physicians diagnose this condition based on the criteria that the patient has suffered chronic, widespread pain over a period of at least three months, as well as the pinpointing of at least 11 fibromyalgia tender spots.

Fibromyalgia Treatment

Although there are several medications often prescribed to fibromylagia patients, lifestyle changes play a large role in the treatment of this condition. The following describes both pharmaceutical and at-home fibromyalgia treatments for relief of fibromyalgia pain.

Medications used to treat fibromyalgia pain include both prescription and over-the-counter drugs like the following:

  • Analgesics. Analgesic drugs used to treat fibromyalgia pain include OTC pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen, as well as prescription painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Antidepressants. Drugs commonly used to treat the aches and pains associated with chronic depression can also be used in the treatment of fibromyalgia pain.
  • Epilepsy drugs. Certain anti-seizure medications are used, as well as approved by the FDA, to treat fibromyalgia symptoms.

Lifestyle Changes
Several changes to diet, activity levels and other aspects of patients’ lifestyles are often recommended in the treatment of fibromyalgia. A few of those lifestyle changes include the following:

  • Increased physical activity. Regular workouts are often used to reduce and relieve pain and stiffness associated with fibrolyalgia. This is due to increased flexibility and circulation that comes with exercise, as well as the body’s heightened production of natural pain-relieving chemicals. However, patients are often advised to ease into increased physical activity and to use good judgment and moderation where exercise is concerned.
  • Reducing stress. Since many fibromyalgia patients suffer from anxiety and excess stress, many doctors recommend a reduction in stressful activities. Counseling or psychotherapy can often relieve stress, as can yoga, deep breathing techniques and anti-anxiety drugs.
  • Healthy diet. A healthy diet can improve many aspects of health for fibromyalgia patients, including energy levels, digestive health and mood. Many patients are also encouraged to limit caffeine and processed foods, since these foods can lead to stress, anxiety and overall poor health.



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