Fibromyalgia has long been a misunderstood medical condition. For example, in the past, people diagnosed with rheumatism may have had fibromyalgia.
Characterized by a vast array of symptoms, fibromyalgia was once only rarely diagnosed, and even then such diagnoses may only have been made after multiple doctor visits. Even members of the medical community had difficulty identifying fibromyalgia, as its symptoms mimic characteristics of many other conditions. But even though fibromyalgia is now more easily identified, more research and education is needed to keep the public in the know about this painful condition.
Widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, mood issues, and sleep or memory disturbances are some of the hallmarks of fibromyalgia, states the Mayo Clinic. Researchers surmise that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by impacting the way the brain processes pain signals. Healthline indicates this overload of pain signals may be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain or abnormality in the dorsal root ganglion, which affects central pain sensitization.
Quite often fibromyalgia causes what’s become known as “regions of pain” that affect five areas of the body. Pain is described as a dull ache. Pain, fatigue and trouble focusing or paying attention are key components of many other autoimmune diseases, which is why fibromyalgia is so challenging to diagnose. There is no specific test that can confirm fibromyalgia. Physicians tend to consider a diagnosis of fibromyalgia if a patient is experiencing musculoskeletal pain in four out of the five regions of pain.
The National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association states that women are diagnosed with fibromyalgia at a ratio of four to one over men. Approximately 10 million Americans are living with fibromyalgia, and it can affect people of all ages — even children. Symptoms of fibromyalgia come and go and vary in intensity. Because there is no cure, treatments are geared toward symptom management and can include cognitive behavioral therapies, gentle exercise and medications to reduce pain.
The NFCP says that stigmatism of people with chronic pain conditions often cause people with fibromyalgia to become withdrawn from family and friends who may not understand the disorder. With support and more research into fibromyalgia, those suffering can get the help, treatment and support they need.