Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease that causes muscle pain , stiffness and numbness of muscles, tendons and joints.
Fibromyalgia is characterized by insomnia, wakefulness, chronic fatigue, anxiety, depression and bowel disorders.
The previous name was fibrositis.
Primary fibromyalgia (that is, it is not caused by another disorder) is one of the most common diseases that affect the muscles and cause chronic pain and disability, but the cause is still unknown.
The painful tissues involved do not represent an acute inflammation .
Therefore, despite the pain that can potentially deactivate, patients with fibromyalgia do not develop bodily injury or deformity.
This disorder does not cause damage to the internal organs of the body.
In this sense, fibromyalgia is different from many other rheumatic diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis, Polymyositis and systemic lupus erythematosus). In this disease, inflammation of the tissue is the main cause of pain, stiffness and numbness of the joints of the tendons and muscles and can lead to deformity of the joints and damage to muscles or internal organs.
A high emotional price to pay
In addition to their daily struggle with pain, patients with fibromyalgia may be forced to fight another battle to convince doctors, friends, colleagues and others that their illness is real and that pain is not imaginary.
Women suffer from fibromyalgia in a manner disproportionate to men, the symptoms are complex and have no cure.
For these reasons, many patients and some physicians say that fibromyalgia is not always recognized and treated in the United States.
In 2007, in a study of more than 2,000 people suffering from fibromyalgia, more than a quarter report that the doctor does not consider fibromyalgia as a “real” disease.
The situation improved because in 2007 the Food and Drug Administration approved a drug for fibromyalgia: pregabalin (Lyrica®), but patients still have to face this challenge.
Because it hurts?
Doctors rely on a theory called central sensitization.
This theory states that people with fibromyalgia have a low tolerance for pain due to increased sensitivity of the brain to signs of pain.
Researchers believe that repeated stimulation causes changes in the brains of people with fibromyalgia.
These changes result in an abnormal increase in the levels of certain chemicals in the brain that carry pain signals (neurotransmitters).
Also, brain pain receptors seem to develop some kind of pain memory and become more sensitive, meaning they may have an overreaction to the pain signals.
Causes of Fibromyalgia
Doctors do not know what causes fibromyalgia, but it is likely to be a number of factors that act together.
These elements are:
- Genetics. Since fibromyalgia mainly affects people from the same family, there may be some genetic changes that facilitate the development of the disease.
- Infections. Some infections appear to trigger or aggravate the disease.
- Lifestyle. Poor diet and sedentary lifestyle are the most likely and frequent causes of fibromyalgia.
- Physical or emotional trauma. A post-traumatic stress disorder has been associated with fibromyalgia.
Risk factors for fibromyalgia include:
- Gender (male or female). This disorder is diagnosed more frequently in women than in men. Female reproductive hormones may play a role in the onset of pain.
- Family history. Fibromyalgia is more likely to develop if a relative has had this disease.
- Rheumatic disease. People suffering from rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, are more likely to be affected by fibromyalgia syndrome.
As it happens? Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
The main symptom of fibromyalgia is chronic and widespread pain in the body.
Most people with fibromyalgia suffer from:
- Fatigue , which can be mild to extreme, drowsiness and insomnia,
- Difficulties of balance,
- Security View,
- Change in sensitivity to heat and cold or a different perception of heat,
- Hypersensitivity to the skin, hearing, sight and smell,
- Fasciculations: they are fast, rhythmic and involuntary contractions of muscles,
- Light intolerance ( photophobia ), especially for objects like pc monitor, tv, etc.
Many people also suffer from other symptoms and diseases together, such as arthritis, lupus and irritable bowel syndrome .
Pain. The pain of fibromyalgia is profound, chronic and widespread.
The patient may have spinal pain , pain in the neck , back , arms or legs .
Pain in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has been described as throbbing or deep as a cramp .
Often there are neurological disorders like burning sensation and tingling .
The severity of pain and stiffness are worse in the morning.
Factors that worsen pain include wet cold, sleep, physical and mental fatigue, excessive physical activity, physical inactivity, anxiety, and stress.
Fatigue. In today’s world, many people complain of fatigue. However, the fatigue of fibromyalgia is much more severe than the one you feel after a particularly intense day or after a sleepless night.
Fibromyalgia fatigue can be severe and can interfere with professional, personal, social or educational activities.
The symptoms are: deep fatigue and low resistance.
Many patients with fibromyalgia have an associated sleep disorder that prevents them from having a deep, restful and restorative sleep.
Sleep. Medical researchers have observed specific anomalies in stage 4 of deep sleep in patients with fibromyalgia syndrome.
Individuals with fibromyalgia have a sleep interrupted by discharges of brain activity as soon as they reach deep sleep they wake up, limiting the amount of time they rest well.
Other concomitant diseases that cause other symptoms include: irritable colon and bladder, headache and migraine , low fever , restless legs syndrome (periodic limb movement disorder), difficulty concentrating and memorizing, rash , dry eyes, and dry mouth , anxiety, depression, chills , tinnitus ( ringing in ears ), dizziness , vision problems, Raynaud’s syndrome, neurological symptoms and impaired coordination.
Many women have reported that the symptoms of fibromyalgia intensify in the premenstrual phase and alleviate when the menstrual cycle passes.
This explosion of symptoms should be the result of hormonal changes.
Diagnosis of fibromyalgia
The doctor who specializes in fibromyalgia is the rheumatologist who performs a physical examination and prescribes exams if necessary.
Blood tests are used to rule out other serious diseases, such as antinuclear antibodies (ANA), rheumatoid factor (RF), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (red blood cells) (VES), prolactin level, calcium level, and D vitamin.
The doctor will check if the symptoms meet the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia identified by the American College of Rheumatology.
These criteria include generalized pain that persists for at least three months. Diffuse pain means that it occurs on both sides, right and left, both above and below the waist, chest, neck and the back of the body.
The criteria also include the presence of painful spots on various parts of the body.
The doctor assesses the severity of the related symptoms, such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, and mood swings. This helps measure the impact of fibromyalgia syndrome on the mind and body beyond the quality of life in general.
For the diagnosis of fibromyalgia, pain and numbness should be felt in at least 11 points in 18 specific areas, including
Most people who suffer from fibromyalgia are adults, but it can occur even in young people (eg, 18 and 20 years) or in pregnant women.