What is Fibromyalgia?
What exactly is fibromyalgia? We’ve got fibro for fibrous tissue, my for muscles and, algia for pain. So basically, PAIN ALL OVER.
To be a little more precise, it is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.
Estimates of the number of people affected are 3-6% of the population worldwide. In the US alone, it’s estimated that 4-12 million people are affected!
So what causes this condition? Well, that’s a bit complicated. In many cases, symptoms begin after some sort of stress such as physical trauma, surgery, or an infection. But for others, there is no clear triggering incident; their symptoms seemed to develop gradually over time. However, it is first identified, the underlying mechanism that causes fibromyalgia is still a mystery.
So if the cause is not known, who’s at risk for developing this condition? The number one risk factor is being female. Among fibromyalgia sufferers, some estimates show that up to 90% of them are women.
Family history is another risk factor. Current research indicates that there’s a genetic component. According to the Mayo Clinic, other family members are at an increased risk several times that of families without fibro.
Other disorders with overlapping symptoms such as osteoarthritis or lupus are the last major risk factor.
Diagnosis of fibro is complicated, and getting definitive confirmation is difficult to obtain. A classic test is the tender point exam, in which pressure is applied to 18 specific spots on a patient’s body. Fibro is a possibility if 11 or more points are particularly tender. Other conditions with similar symptoms are ruled out by a variety of blood tests.
Though there is no cure for fibromyalgia, symptoms can be managed through a combination of medications, therapies, and lifestyle changes.
Medications help with pain reduction and make sleeping easier. Antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs are sometimes prescribed as well.
The list of possible therapies is endless and includes everything from physical therapy to acupuncture. What works for someone might not work for someone else, and could even change over time as symptoms evolve.
Well, that’s a sweeping overview of this mysterious condition known as fibromyalgia.
It’s so much to take in, but don’t worry, we’re going to expand on all these points and more in other Fibro Pulse videos.