What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes widespread pain and tenderness throughout the body, as well as fatigue, sleep disturbances, and other symptoms. Fibromyalgia is a complex condition that can be difficult to diagnose and manage, and its exact cause is unknown.


Who's at risk for fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia can affect people of all ages, races, and ethnicities, but it is more commonly diagnosed in women and people with a family history of the condition. Other factors that may increase the risk of fibromyalgia include exposure to physical or emotional trauma, chronic stress, or certain medical conditions.


What causes fibromyalgia?

The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it is believed to be related to a combination of genetic, environmental, and neurological factors. Some common factors that may contribute to fibromyalgia include:

  1. Abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain and spinal cord, such as serotonin and norepinephrine
  2. Overactive pain signals in the central nervous system
  3. Infections or illnesses that trigger or worsen symptoms
  4. Physical or emotional trauma, such as car accidents or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  5. Sleep disturbances or disorders, such as sleep apnea or insomnia


How does fibromyalgia start?

Fibromyalgia may start with mild symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, or mild pain, which may progress over time to more severe and widespread symptoms. Some people with fibromyalgia may experience periods of remission or exacerbation of symptoms.


What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

The symptoms of fibromyalgia may vary depending on the severity and underlying cause of the condition, but may include:

  1. Widespread pain and tenderness throughout the body, particularly in the muscles and joints
  2. Fatigue and exhaustion, even after adequate rest or sleep
  3. Sleep disturbances, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless leg syndrome
  4. Cognitive issues, such as difficulty concentrating, memory problems, or "brain fog"
  5. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other gastrointestinal symptoms
  6. Headaches or migraines
  7. Sensitivity to light, noise, or other environmental factors


How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?

Diagnosing fibromyalgia involves a comprehensive evaluation of a person's symptoms, medical history, and physical exam, as well as ruling out other medical conditions that may cause similar symptoms. There is no specific test or imaging study that can confirm a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.


How can fibromyalgia be treated?

Treatment for fibromyalgia may involve a range of interventions, including:

  1. Medication, such as pain relievers, antidepressants, or anticonvulsants, which may help manage symptoms of pain, fatigue, or sleep disturbances
  2. Lifestyle modifications, such as regular exercise, stress management techniques, or dietary changes, which may help improve overall health and reduce the impact of fibromyalgia on quality of life
  3. Psychotherapy or counseling, which may help manage underlying psychological or emotional issues related to fibromyalgia
  4. Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, massage, or chiropractic care, which may help manage symptoms of pain or other symptoms


What complications may occur with fibromyalgia?

If left untreated or poorly managed, fibromyalgia can lead to a range of complications, including:

  1. Chronic pain or disability
  2. Psychological or emotional issues, such as anxiety or depression related to the impact of fibromyalgia on quality of life
  3. Impaired ability to perform daily activities or participate in social or recreational activities


How can I prevent fibromyalgia?

Preventing fibromyalgia is not always possible, as the exact cause of the condition is unknown. However, some strategies that may help reduce the risk of developing fibromyalgia include:

  1. Maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle, including regular exercise and a balanced diet
  2. Managing underlying medical conditions or infections, which may trigger or worsen symptoms of fibromyalgia
  3. Practicing stress management techniques, such as mindfulness or meditation, to reduce the impact of stress on overall health


Long-term management of fibromyalgia

Managing fibromyalgia over the long term involves ongoing monitoring of symptoms, regular healthcare provider visits, and following a treatment plan as prescribed by a healthcare provider. It may also involve making lifestyle changes to manage symptoms and participating in ongoing therapy or support groups to manage underlying psychological or emotional issues.


What is recent research saying about fibromyalgia?

Recent research in fibromyalgia has focused on developing new treatments and therapies to improve outcomes and prevent complications. Some of the promising areas of research include:

  1. Novel medications or drug combinations, which may help manage symptoms of fibromyalgia more effectively and with fewer side effects
  2. Development of non-invasive treatments, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation or biofeedback, which may help manage symptoms of pain or other symptoms
  3. Identification of specific genetic or biomarker signatures that may help diagnose or manage fibromyalgia more effectively


Where can I go for more information on fibromyalgia?

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, it is important to seek help from a healthcare provider who specializes in the treatment of the condition. The following organizations also provide information and resources on fibromyalgia:

  • National Fibromyalgia Association
  • American College of Rheumatology
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)