Sometimes, not even doctors can actually give you with the answers you need. Even though medical research has advanced a lot and there are nowadays more treatments available than ever and people know better than ever how to take care of their own health, medicine still has major “holes” in it and there are still many medical conditions that have no treatment.
Fibromyalgia is one of them. Even if it is a fairly frequently encountered medical condition, fibromyalgia remains a mystery for the entire medical world and it has not yet been elucidated.
Over 5 million people in the United States suffer from it – to which you can add the people from the rest of the world. Out of them, there are people who have been literally bedridden for years before their situation ameliorated. With proper care and with the right diagnosis and treatment, fibromyalgia can be managed though. But before you try to manage it, you should learn as much as possible about it.
Fibromyalgia – The Basics Everyone Should Know
Fibromyalgia can be terrible. Its many symptoms can range from severe to mild and they can disable a person from living their lives properly. The main symptom this syndrome shows is widespread pain, but there are many other symptoms it may show as well.
For instance, many of the people with fibromyalgia suffer from sleep disturbances too. They either have insomnia or they wake up more tired than they went to sleep. Also, some of them show the restless leg syndrome as well, which is another sleep disturbance that can affect one’s life.
Muscle pain, muscle spasms, muscle twitching – they are also common to patients with fibromyalgia. And sometimes, they suffer from other disorders and symptoms as well: depression, anxiety, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, dizziness, inability to remember things, inability to memorize things, fogginess in thinking, severe headaches and the list goes on and on.
The worst part about living with fibromyalgia is related to the fact that it seems like an endless cycle of pain and sleepless nights, as well as hopelessness. When someone is not able to sleep normally, their bodies will stop reacting normally to the external stimulants. Also, depression and anxiety are very common either as one of the leading causes or as a consequence of the inability to perform well at work or in the family.
And, with all these symptoms, the causes that actually lead to the onset of fibromyalgia are still not fully known. Some have put forward various theories related to either insomnia and sleep disturbances as being the main causes or to trauma brought to the brain or to the spinal cord.
And, more recently, some have started to believe that fibromyalgia is not actual pain, but a wrongful way in which the body transmits the “pain messages” to the brain due to abnormal levels of the neurotransmitter called serotonin (which is in charge with keeping your body calm and with relieving the feeling of anxiety).
Also, it seems that genetics plays an important role in the way in which fibromyalgia develops too. According to more recent studies, people who are born in families where one or two members also suffer from fibromyalgia show larger risk to develop the syndrome themselves as well. This may be due to the fact that certain genes are altered in the body of those who suffer from fibromyalgia, and this makes them much more sensitive to pain than other people are.
How Fibromyalgia is Diagnosed
Diagnosing fibromyalgia can be extremely difficult because it is connected to so many symptoms, because different people show different symptoms and also because these symptoms can sometimes completely overlap on other existent diseases, disorders and medical conditions.
For instance, a person who suffers from fibromyalgia with pain and insomnia being the most poignant symptoms may be treated for insomnia only precisely because lack of sleep can be the cause for pain as well. And this goes the same way with all the other symptoms as well: the irritable bowel, the headaches, the cognitive issues, depression, anxiety, the irritable bladder and so on.
Diagnosing fibromyalgia usually starts with examining the 18 tender points spread all across the body. If the patient shows pain in more (or in all) of these points, the likelihood that he/she suffers from fibromyalgia is quite high. However, analyzing the tender points only may not lead to a precise diagnosis and the doctor may have to run other tests as well.
The doctor will also ask a series of questions to find out more about the patient’s symptoms as well. It is extremely important that you answer honestly to these questions because the doctor is asking them to rule out other potential similar conditions (such as the chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis) and to see if you suffer from adjacent conditions as well (depression, anxiety, and so on).
Usually, when 3-6 of the tender points hurt badly or when all of them hurt mildly, if the symptoms have been going on for more than 3 months and if no other diagnosis can be put, fibromyalgia will be the main diagnosis.
Recently, scientists have also developed a blood test that can determine with fair accuracy whether or not a person has fibromyalgia. The FM/a test, as it was called, can detect certain markers that are produced by the immune cells only in the case of those who suffer from fibromyalgia.
This test could be a great step towards a better future for those who suffer from this syndrome. However, the test is quite new and although many people out there have tried it, many others (including medical professionals) are still skeptical about it.
And this comes with a harsh consequence for the patients: the insurance companies are skeptical too and not many of them will actually want to cover for the price of the test. Considering the fact that the test costs almost $800, not many patients will be able to afford it otherwise, which is a big issue for those looking for treatment.