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By Angela Young

Fibromyalgia is an illness that is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. Fibromyalgia is the most common form of arthritis after osteoarthritis. Fibromyalgia is a rheumatoid disease that can lead to isolation and depression because of the symptoms involved with the condition.

Widespread pain, fatigue, stiffness and joint pain are all characteristics of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia syndrome is a collection of symptoms that occur in a person suffering with fibromyalgia. While the symptoms of fibromyalgia are often confused with arthritis, arthritis tends to be localized rather than widespread like fibromyalgia.

Women are much more likely than men to develop fibromyalgia. Most of the 12 million people currently suffering with fibromyalgia pain receive their diagnosis between the ages of 25 and 60.

Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia are similar to the symptoms usually associated with arthritis. Symptoms of fibromyalgia include chronic headaches, anxiety and depression, pain of the abdomen, difficulty sleeping, general fatigue, dryness of the mouth, nose and eyes, numbness and tingling of the feet and fingers, painful menstrual cramps, incontinence, restless leg syndrome, poor circulation, irritable bowel syndrome and stiffness.

Fibromyalgia Causes

There are many theories as to the cause of fibromyalgia. There is not clear consensus at this time. Scientists do seem to agree that fibromyalgia is the result of several factors both emotional and physical, not just one root cause.

One theory suggests that a reduction in the amount of serotonin in the brain can cause fibromyalgia. Serotonin helps the body calm down. Serotonin offers an anxiety reducing effect. Low serotonin levels may decrease the pain threshold of some people making them overly sensitive to joint pain.

Another theory suggests that fibromyalgia is the result of trauma to the central nervous system causing irreversible problems and chronic pain, swelling and joint stiffness. Some scientists believe that stress and poor physical conditioning can cause fibromyalgia. Stress and poor physical condition may leave a patient more susceptible to “microtrauma” or slight damage to the body that can begin a cycle of general fatigue and pain.

Studies show that lack of sleep can lower the pain threshold in women. Fatigue and lack of sleep are symptoms of fibromyalgia so the theory says that the lack of sleep happens first and then causes the fibromyalgia continue that issue.

Other scientists believe that family history of rheumatoid illness predisposes people to the development of fibromyalgia and yet other scientists believe there is a link between depression and fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia Diagnosis

Diagnosis of fibromyalgia is very difficult to diagnose and often people receive a misdiagnosis from their doctors. The reason for the misdiagnosis is often because a doctor must base their diagnosis on the way a patient feels. There are no standard tests that can help a doctor determine whether or not a patient has fibromyalgia. Most of the tests that are available will only help a doctor to rule out other serious diseases.

Doctors will likely make a diagnosis of fibromyalgia after a thorough physical examination and several conversations with the patient regarding pain levels and symptoms the patient has.

Fibromyalgia Treatment

Treatment for fibromyalgia is not just a pill. While many patients will receive pain medication as part of their treatment, they are also likely to have an antidepressant as part of their regimen. The pain medications and antidepressants help to treat the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

In addition to medications, many doctors will suggest lifestyle changes as part of the treatment for fibromyalgia. Physical therapy, moist heat and reduction of stress are all ways a patient can improve their symptoms of fibromyalgia. At this time treating symptoms is a patient’s best course of treatment because there is no cure for fibromyalgia currently.

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