Fibromyalgia affects about 10 million people in the United States, and most of the sufferers tend to be women (although it can affect any gender at any age). It is generally described as a chronic disorder that causes widespread pain throughout the body.
Fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose because many of the symptoms may be related to another ailment or disease. In many cases, other potential causes of these symptoms may need to be ruled out first. It causes frustration because there is no definitive way to “prove” someone has fibromyalgia. There are also many medical professional who don’t believe fibromyalgia exists, arguing that it’s psychological and “all in the head.”
Regardless, chronic widespread pain is something that should not be ignored. Whether pain is physical or mental it needs to be addressed in order to reduce the risk of worsening pain.
Some of the most common symptoms are
Tension, throbbing and twisting in the muscles
Numbness, tingling and burning
Headaches and migraines
Fibromyalgia is a psychological disease as well as physical. Many patients also experience depression, and anxiety and “brain fog” (i.e. trouble with memory, concentration and organization).
Many experience fatigue, yet trouble sleeping. When someone is overwhelmed with tiredness they have difficulty with day to day activities, leading to a domino effect of other challenges.
Other symptoms that may be a sign of fibromyalgia are
Irritable bowel syndrome
Rashes and other skin sensitivities
Dry eyes and mouth
Ringing in the ear
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown and still being studied, however, medical experts suspect that it is the result of the brain and the nervous system failing to process pain signals the way they are supposed to.
So, how is Fibromyalgia diagnosed? Unfortunately, there are no tests that signify confirmation of the disease. Instead, doctors rely on the existence of combined symptoms identified above. Doctors will consider how long these symptoms have been present and will allow at least three months before establishing a diagnosis.
Among the diseases that need to be ruled out are: Mental health challenges, rheumatic diseases and neurological disorders.
As a patient, one of the best ways to begin assessing symptoms is to keep a diary. Write down where the pain is, what it feels like, when it occurs and how long it lasts. Keep a record of your sleep habits: Do you go to bed and wake up at the same time? Do you toss and turn? Do you wake up not feeling rested even though you did sleep? Be as specific as possible to your everyday routines.
There is no one treatment or cure for fibromyalgia. Your best course of action is understanding all the variables involved and developing a plan made up of a (possible) mix of medication (homeopathic and/or pharmaceutical), lifestyle changes, diet changes, exercise habits, etc. Trial and error and time are key to figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
As with all chronic ailments, knowledge is power. There are numerous resources online that can serve as guides toward understanding fibromyalgia as a disease. In the end talking to experts and health care providers is the best source of intelligence and information.