The condition affects nearly 4 million Americans, mostly women between the ages of 20 and 50, but it can occur in people of all ages.
People with fibromyalgia typically complain of hurting all over and non-restful sleep. Even with adequate amounts of sleep, people with fibromyalgia still wake up feeling unrested. The lack of restful sleep seems to exacerbate or worsen the symptoms, resulting in a vicious cycle of increasing fatigue and pain.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
- A feeling of swelling in the hands & feet
- Abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and constipation alternating with diarrhea Tension or migraine headaches
- Chronic muscle pain, muscle spasms, tightness, stiffness
- Difficulty remembering, concentrating (“fibro fog”)
- Feeling anxious or depressed
- Increase in urinary urgency or frequency
- Insomnia or still tired upon waking
- Jaw & facial tenderness
- Moderate or severe fatigue & decreased energy
- Numbness or tingling in the arms, face, feet, hands, legs
- Reduced tolerance for exercise
- Sensitivity to odors, noise, bright lights, medications, certain foods, and cold
There is no laboratory test to diagnose fibromyalgia. It is often a “diagnosis of exclusion,” meaning that your doctor will try to rule out other causes of the symptoms. Conditions that should be excluded include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, and sleep apnea. A diagnosis of fibromyalgia is also identified by pinpointing “tender points,” which are certain areas of the body that are painful to the touch.
There is no cure for fibromyalgia, but it is not a deforming or life-threatening disease. The most important aspect of treatment is education. Learning about the condition and what causes the symptoms is critical in recovery. Aerobic exercise for 20 to 30 minutes three or four times a week can also be useful for improving sleep quality.
Many people with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other arthritic conditions may also have fibromyalgia. In fact, fibromyalgia should be considered a possible explanation for symptoms in arthritis patients whose pain is not improving despite improvement in joint swelling.
Scott Zashin, MD, PA is a respected and published Texas Fibromyalgia Doctor/Specialist in Dallas. The above information about fibromyalgia is from his arthritis book: Arthritis Without Pain, a comprehensive guide for patients considering or undergoing treatment with the TNF blockers Enbrel®, Remicade®, or Humira®. All rights reserved.
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