There are many health conditions that are still not fully understood yet – one of them is fibromyalgia. Even sometime it coexists with other conditions, making it more difficult to be diagnosed. And the way of how the symptoms of the disease start and appear may also vary from patient to patient. So how to tell if you have the disease?
Sometime, two or more chronic pain conditions can be found together in one individual.
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These conditions include fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, vulvodynia, inflammatory bowel disease, and temporomandibular joint dysfunction. It’s not clear whether they share a common cause.
Fibromyalgia is often mistakenly identified as a joint disease since it can cause similar symptoms. Although it is characterized by widespread pain that also can affect knee or other joints, but it is actually not a true form of arthritis. Typically, it will not cause deformities of the joints.
Like most things in many health conditions, there are some factors /conditions that increase your risk of developing fibromyalgia. These risk factors include:
The disease is more common in women; it is most common among those ages 20-50. Even if compared between men and women, it affect about 0.5 percent of men and 3.4 percent of women in the U.S. About 80-90 percent of all cases occur in women
However, it can affect anyone – including children. The diagnosis is often made during middle age, but the symptoms of the disease can appear earlier.
Your risk increases if you have a relative (particularly such as parent) with the disease. Many studies have looked at the role of genes in increasing the risk of fibromyalgia.
Some studies found that women with a family history of fibromyalgia tend to develop the same problem. But unfortunately, the reason of this finding is not clear – whether it is caused by heredity factor or whether it is shared with environmental factors – or both!
How about other rheumatic disorders?
While experts agree that both having a family history of fibromyalgia and gender can be the risk factors of the disease, it is not clear whether having other rheumatic disorders increases the risk.
But some experts say that having lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or other rheumatic diseases may put you at high risk.
Another interesting fact, currently there is no specific test to diagnose fibromyalgia. But there are some tests to help rule out other health problems (such as some rheumatic disorders) that can cause similar symptoms.
First off, each case varies so it’s not always easy to catch up the disease without comprehensive evaluation from your doctor.
Symptoms may occur gradually, accumulated over time (there is no triggering event). In other cases, the disease may flare up after triggering events such as infection, severe psychological stress, surgery, or physical trauma.
Although each case is unique, the most common signs and symptoms are as follows:
- Widespread pain. Many times, the pain feels like a constant dull ache that may last months. Widespread means it can affect both sides, including below and above the waist.
- Cognitive issues. The disease will lead to a condition called ‘fibro fog’, impairing your basic ability to concentrate, focus, and pay attention. This could be severe enough to ruin your daily activities.
- Excessive tiredness (abnormal fatigue). Even though if you have long hours of night sleep, the disease can make you awaken tired. For more comprehensive information, see fibromyalgia and fatigue!
Currently, there is no specific test to accurately diagnose the disease. The diagnosis for this chronic disease is usually made when you have widespread pain and other symptoms of the disease (mentioned above) for more than 3 months – and there is no any underlying condition found to explain those symptoms.
If necessary, blood tests are probably required to rule out other medical conditions. For more guidance about diagnosis, see a doctor!
You might also like to read:
- Can fibromyalgia cause dizziness?
- Does it also cause tooth pain, chest pain, or joint swelling?
Currently, no one knows what causes fibromyalgia. Though there are some theories from lifestyle factors (such as stress) to hormonal disturbances or even certain genetic mutations, this issue is still debatable.
While there is still no one answer about the exact cause of the disease, most experts think that it is not caused by a single event. Instead, it is thought as a consequence from a combination of two or more different factors (both physical and psychological stressors).
And as mentioned before, the way of how the symptoms of the disease appear varies.
Sometime the symptoms accumulate and appear gradually over time without single triggering event. But in other cases, they appear after specific triggering event such as extremely psychological stress /traumatic event, surgery, repetitive injury, illness, physical trauma, or infection.
Some studies are continuously going to find other possible causes. One of major issues is about problems with how the spinal cord and brain (the central nervous system) processes pain.
Unfortunately, many times people with fibromyalgia don’t remember about any specific triggering event that causes the symptoms to appear. The following are other frequently asked questions about how this musculoskeletal condition starts!