Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. Despite its prevalence, it is often misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed.
It can be a debilitating condition that can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. This article will explore fibromyalgia, its symptoms, causes, and treatment options.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in localized areas. It affects both men and women but is more common in women. People with fibromyalgia often describe the pain as a constant dull ache that persists for at least three months. The pain may be present in specific areas of the body, such as the neck, shoulders, hips, and back, or it may be more generalized.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Apart from chronic pain, fibromyalgia also causes other symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, stiffness, headaches, and memory problems. People with fibromyalgia may also experience depression, anxiety, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These symptoms can lead to a significant impact on a person’s ability to carry out daily activities, leading to social isolation and disability.
Nur Rieya Abdullah, a patient with the condition from Malaysia, tried to describe the symptoms. She likens it to a feeling of being pricked by a million needles simultaneously every time she moves. She also feels as if there are 20 pairs of hands gripping and holding on to her, making movement difficult. At other times, she adds, it can also feel as if someone is sawing her bones, or that she’s having tonnes of metal and bricks piled on top of her.
Causes of Fibromyalgia
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is still unknown, but it is believed to be a result of a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Some researchers suggest that it may be related to changes in the nervous system, such as an abnormal increase in pain signals or a decrease in the body’s natural pain inhibitors. Other factors that may add to the development of fibromyalgia include viral infections, physical or emotional trauma, and sleep disturbances.
It can be challenging to diagnose this condition, and making a correct diagnosis often takes a long time. Doctors make a diagnosis of fibromyalgia based on a patient’s medical history, symptoms, and physical examination since there is no specific test for it. Doctors may also use specific diagnostic criteria, such as the American College of Rheumatology’s criteria, which includes widespread pain in specific areas of the body and the presence of tender points.
Treatment Options for Fibromyalgia
There is no cure yet, but there are various treatment options available that can help manage the symptoms. The treatment approach may vary based on the severity of the symptoms and individual patient needs. Some common treatment options include medications, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and counseling.
Doctors may use pain relievers, antidepressants, and anti-seizure drugs to treat fibromyalgia. These medications may help reduce pain, improve sleep, and alleviate depression and anxiety symptoms. Healthcare professionals may use physical therapy and occupational therapy to manage pain and improve mobility. Counseling, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), may also be beneficial in helping patients manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. Despite how common it is, it is often under-diagnosed or misdiagnosed, leading to delayed treatment and added suffering. It is important for people who experience chronic pain and other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia to seek medical attention and receive a proper diagnosis. With appropriate treatment, people with the condition can improve their quality of life and reduce the impact on their lifes.