What is fibromyalgia, and what can we do about it?
A mystery to many, fibromyalgia continues to be one of the most misdiagnosed illnesses today. Take a moment to learn a little bit more about this widespread disorder and hopefully gain some insight to assist yourself and others.
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a very complicated illness characterized by chronic pain throughout the entire body, for a period of time, extending up to 3 months. Most individuals are not diagnosed until testing of the symptoms, by an experienced physician, has ruled out all other possibilities. Until 2010 doctors, who were convinced no other illness was present, would perform a physical test on the patient that included a series of 18 tender points on the body. If 11 out of the 18 specific points produced pain, the patient was then diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Today, according to the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA), physicians focus less on the tender points and more on the extensive pain and related symptoms.
Who's at risk?
Fibromyalgia has reached the rank of most prevalent pain disorder in the world today. The NFA states that 10 million people in the US and an additional 3-6% of the world's population are estimated to be affected by the disorder. Fibromyalgia cases have been documented around the world showing that every ethnicity, men, women and even children, can suffer from the disorder. However, coming in at 75-90% of those suffering, women are the unlucky fibromyalgia winners.
Recent studies have linked fibromyalgia with genetics, as it seems to affect many siblings, mothers and children simultaneously. Your risk of being overcome by fibromyalgia increases with age. It's estimated that 8% of all adults by the age of 80 will meet the criteria for fibromyalgia disorder.
Signs & Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia manifest themselves boldly, but these symptoms are often mistaken for a multitude of other illnesses. Some people only experience 1-2 issues while others can experience the entire spectrum.These issues can include:
- chronic widespread pain
- sleep problems
- difficulty thinking clearly
- irritable bowel syndrome
- headaches and/or migraines
- anxiety and depression
- environmental sensitivities
Researchers haven't been able to establish a reason for the lack of pattern or varying frequency of said symptoms.
What are the options?
Regrettably even after the host of tests and multiple clinic visits give you the official seal of fibromyalgia sufferer, you still have to deal with the fact that there is no known cure. Pretty bitter pill to swallow. While this news can be incredibly disheartening, some hope can be found in the progress being made every day in the treatment of the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia.
There are a few prescription medications, such as Cymbalta and Savella, shown to provide relief from the pain and sleeplessness associated with fibromyalgia. Many physicians will also prescribe several non-pharmacological therapies to complement a medicinal regime. These therapies include:
- aerobic exercise
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