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Breaking Down Fibromyalgia

Woman in pain

May 12 is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, dedicated to bringing awareness to the musculoskeletal disorder that causes chronic pain all over the body. Learn more about this condition, who it impacts, and treatment options below.

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that affects an estimated 5 million Americans, primarily women.

Symptoms include:

  • widespread pain throughout the body,
  • fatigue,
  • sleep disturbances,
  • and cognitive issues such as difficulty concentrating and memory problems.

Despite being a relatively common condition, fibromyalgia is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed, making it difficult for those who suffer from it to receive proper treatment.

What causes fibromyalgia?

There is no clear cause of fibromyalgia, but it is believed to be related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain that amplify pain signals. Additionally, there may be genetic factors that increase a person’s likelihood of developing the condition. Some common triggers of fibromyalgia symptoms include stress, injury, illness, and hormonal fluctuations.

Fibromyalgia is most commonly diagnosed in women between the ages of 20 and 50, although it can affect people of any age or gender. It is also more common in people with certain underlying conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or chronic fatigue syndrome.

Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosing fibromyalgia can be challenging, as there are no specific tests or imaging studies that can definitively identify the condition. Instead, doctors typically rely on a combination of patient-reported symptoms and physical examination findings. The American College of Rheumatology has established criteria for diagnosing fibromyalgia, which require the presence of widespread pain throughout the body for at least three months, as well as tenderness in at least 11 out of 18 specific “tender points.”

Treatment for fibromyalgia typically involves a multidisciplinary approach that addresses the various symptoms of the condition. It’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating fibromyalgia. Each patient’s experience with the condition is unique, and treatment plans should be tailored to address individual needs and concerns. With proper management, many people with fibromyalgia are able to lead full and productive lives.

If you think you may be experiencing symptoms related to fibromyalgia, contact your primary care provider.

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