Fibromyalgia is a syndrome whose main symptoms are joint and muscle pain. Of unknown cause, it is the subject of much research within the medical profession. Its diagnosis is still difficult to make today and its treatment is symptomatic.
Definition: What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia, or fibromyalgia syndrome, is a long-term condition which can cause pain throughout the body. It is characterized predominantly by muscle pain, joint pain, fatigue, and sleep disorders. It is estimated that on average 2-10% of the world's population is affected. The most likely to be affected are women (80% of cases), most often between the ages of 30 and 60 years old.
Fibromyalgia is not a serious illness. It does not entail any serious complications for the human body, and does not lead to loss of autonomy. However, it is extremely debilitating and difficult for those who are sick.
Fibromyalgia should not be confused with chronic fatigue syndrome (or myalgic encephalomyelitis). The two disease are difficult to differentiate, as they have the same symptoms. In the case of fibromyalgia, the pain is greater, whereas in the case of chronic fatigue syndrome fatigue, an individual experience overwhelming lack of energy and tiredness but simply may experience some pain.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
The main symptom of fibromyalgia is pain and stiffness in the muscles. These can occur in many places, but are most commonly found in the hips and shoulders. Sleep disorders are also observed, leading to an intense fatigue that lasts all day. Bed rest does not improve the problem.
Other symptoms may also appear, including:
- migraines and headaches
- irritable bowel (constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain)
- minor cognitive impairment (concentration problem or memory)
- changing mood
- heavy legs
Causes of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is still not well understood. The causes of the symptoms are, unfortunately, not yet known. Researchers have not yet found inflammations or lesions that could explain them.
Various studies have advanced several hypotheses, such as hypersensitivity to pain, an abnormal central nervous system, muscle abnormality, and viral infection.
Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia
A diagnosis of fibromyalgia is difficult to make as there is no medical examination specific to the disease. What's more, the diversity of symptoms, as well as their similarities to other syndromes, makes it difficult to pinpoint to fibromyalgia. As a result, fibromyalgia frequently receives a very late diagnosis.
Doctors rely on a physical examination and medical history to make a diagnosis. Eighteen sensitivity points characteristic of fibromyalgia - where the pain is more intense - are examined. It is customary to diagnose fibromyalgia once eleven pain points have been located. However, this figure is arbitrary and subject to debate within the medical profession.
Treatment for Fibromyalgia
There is no effective treatment for fibromyalgia. That said, things can be done to soothe the pain felt by patients. Medications such as analgesics (Tradamol is the most effective), morphine, and antidepressants are frequently prescribed by doctors.
Some non-drug-related treatments are also effective. Patients are advised to do physical exercises like aerobics, relax, and go to spas. Hot baths can also provide quick relief.