The signs, symptoms, causes and treatments for fibromyalgia – a chronic pain disorder. 

Fibromyalgia causes fatigue and chronic, widespread pain in muscles and soft tissues surrounding the joints throughout the body. It is fairly common, affecting approximately 2 to 4 percent of Americans, mostly females.

Although its symptoms are similar to other joint diseases such as arthritis, fibromyalgia is actually a form of soft tissue or muscular rheumatism that causes pain in the muscles and soft tissues. Fibromyalgia is more prevalent in women of childbearing age.

Causes

The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but researchers believe there may be a link with sleep disturbance, psychological stress, or immune, endocrine, or biochemical abnormalities. Fibromyalgia mainly affects the muscles and the points at which the muscles attach to the bone (at the ligaments and tendons).

Pain is the most common and chronic symptom of fibromyalgia. Pain may begin in one area of the body, such as the neck and shoulders, but eventually the entire body may become affected. The pain ranges from mild to severe and may be described as burning, soreness, stiffness, aching, or gnawing pain. Fibromyalgia usually is associated with characteristic tender spots of pain in the muscles. Individuals may experience symptoms differently.

Fibromyalgia Symptoms

  • Pain in four body quadrants or diffuse bodily pain, ranging from mild to severe that can be described as burning, soreness, stiffness, aching or gnawing pain
  • Tender spots of pain in the muscles through out the body
  • Moderate to severe fatigue, day time napping
  • Decreased exercise endurance
  • Poor, nonrestorative sleep
  • Depressed mood, emotional lability
  • Anxiety, poor coping, altered relationship and friendships
  • Headaches, poor concentration and productivity
  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Diarrhea, alternated with constipation
  • Urinary urgency

The symptoms of fibromyalgia may resemble other medical conditions or problems. That's why it's especially important to consult a doctor if any of the symptoms of fibromyalgia are present. No laboratory tests can confirm a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Instead, diagnosis is usually based on reported symptoms.

Treatment

Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia, the disease can often be successfully managed with proper treatment, as fibromyalgia does not cause damage to tissues.

Medical Reviewer: [Akin, Louise RN, BSN, Bowers, Nancy A. RN, BSN, MPH, Fincannon, Joy RN MN, Foster, Sara M. RN, MPH, Gaskin, Kelley RN, MSN, CPNP, Jenkins, Lee, Pierce-Smith, Daphne RN, MSN, CCRC, FNP] Last Annual Review Date: 2009-03-31T00:00:00-06:00 Copyright: © 2000-2010 The StayWell Company, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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