What Causes Fibromyalgia| Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a neurological musculoskeletal pain disorder, identified by fatigue, sleep, and mood shifts. Symptoms often begin after a physical trauma, infection, or stress. However, it may resemble some other medical conditions. Also, there is no specific diagnosis to confirm the test. Consequently, it often misdiagnosed. So, what causes fibromyalgia? There is a lot factor that is included in the occurrence of such chronic disorder. 

What causes fibromyalgia?

According to the researches, repetitive nerve stimulation causes a change in the spinal cord and brain of people with this disorder. An abnormal increase in the release of some chemicals in the brain brings pain. 

Well, there is no evidence of the exact cause of fibromyalgia, but yes some predictions and possibilities are here for so:-  

Genetics:- any family history of fibromyalgia, or certain mutations linked to the disorder might make you vulnerable to fibromyalgia. 

Infections:- some other illnesses like infections might trigger it, such as flu and pneumonia. 

Emotional or physical reason:- fibromyalgia may be triggered by any past injury or accident. Apart from the physical triggers, psychological stress can be the reason for developing fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia Symptoms 

The fibromyalgia diagnosis criteria are “multisite pain”. Aside from the pain, numerous other things happen within the body such as:-

  • Exhaustion
  • Chest pain
  • Back pain
  • Leg pain
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Not getting rest even after a long sleep
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Lack of concentration
  • Dry eyes 
  • Joints feel stiff in the morning
  • Painful menstruation
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Numb hands and feet

Other symptoms 

  • Vision problems
  • Nausea
  • Weight gain
  • Skin issues
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Infections like flu and cold 
  • Urinary problems 

The brain nerves might interfere in response and may overreact to the pain signals. This may arise because of the imbalance in the chemicals in the brain or any abnormality in the ganglion( a cluster of neuron cells in PNS). 

Well, when talking about the susceptible gender, then both males and females can get fibromyalgia. In a study in 2016, males were too diagnosed with the same. They too face hardships in career, personal life, and mental peace according to a survey in 2018. 

But the society expects men to be strong always and they often stay undiagnosed. Everyone should be aware of the condition and should be diagnosed immediately when the symptoms are unbearable. 

Also read| Myalgia: what causes muscle pain 

Risk factors for fibromyalgia

Any physical or mental condition like stress, injury, or infectious disease might trigger fibromyalgia. Here are the risk factors for fibromyalgia, those who are more susceptible to the condition:- 

Gender:- mostly females are diagnosed with the condition, although the reason isn’t clear yet. 

Age:- you may diagnose with this during middle age, and get more vulnerable as you get older. But, no such criteria are there, even children are diagnosed with so. 

Family history:- if you have any family history, you are susceptible to fibromyalgia. 

Disease:- if you have arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, or any auto-immune disease, you are at high risk of acquiring fibromyalgia. 

Diagnosis

The diagnosis may be a bit complex, as there is no lab test for diagnosis and confirmation of fibromyalgia. Also, the symptoms of fibromyalgia resemble that of hypothyroidism and auto-immune disease. The other conditions associated with fibromyalgia must be first diagnosed to get the appropriate outcome and confirmation. 

There are three criteria for diagnosing fibromyalgia given by the American College of Rheumatology:-

  • Multisite pain, fatigue, sleep problems, and mental instability for more than a week 
  • The presence of symptoms for about 3 months.
  • No history or presence of some other medical condition, that might cause the symptoms. 

Trigger points

These are the trigger points that are considered to be the highly painful points in fibromyalgia. Examples are outer elbows, inner knees, back of the head. Pain in the shoulders, outer hips, neck, and upper chest might also be increased. 

Doctors may diagnose you according to the response of these trigger points while applying pressure over them. Injections can’t be applied to these points. However, the trigger points are no more reliable method to diagnose fibromyalgia. Instead of focusing on the trigger points, the specific areas and severity of the pain are identified for the evaluation of fibromyalgia. 

Treatment 

As there is no present cure for fibromyalgia, hence, it’s better to focus on living a quality life and improving daily routine. 

Treatments can be done to reduce pain and symptoms, but the root cause can’t be cured properly. 

Medications 

Medicines will help in relieving pain and provides you a better sleep. It includes pain killers, anti-depressants, and anti-seizure drugs. 

Pain killers:- some over-the-counter pain killers like ibuprofen, acetaminophen can help in mild pain. Narcotics like opioids were prescribed for pain relief. But, using them for a long time has health risks. 

Antidepressants:- antidepressants like duloxetine and milnacipran HCL are used to get good sleep and relief from pain and fatigue. 

Antiseizure:- pregabalin, the anti-seizure drug, was first approved by FDA for the treatment of fibromyalgia. Some other drugs that aren’t approved by FDA may help in relieving symptoms. 

Lifestyle 

Lifestyle is a big factor in treating and acquiring any disease. Yes, sometimes the uncareful routine and lifestyle might cause severe disease. Here are some lifestyle modification options:-

  • Regular exercise
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Psychotherapy
  • A good and balanced diet
  • Yoga, with caution
  • Meditation
  • Cognitive behavior therapy  

Conclusion 

Fibromyalgia is a neurological chronic pain disorder that is characterized by fatigue, inability to sleep, difficulty in breathing, depression, and emotional distress. Almost every gender experiences it. So what causes fibromyalgia? There may be different causes for so. Any previous medical condition like arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and auto-immune disease can be the reason for developing fibromyalgia. Apart from this, any family history of the same condition or any physical or psychological damage like a car accident or financial loss can be the possible reason. Though there is no proper cure for the disorder. By some medications and lifestyle modifications, the symptoms can be minimized. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes someone to get fibromyalgia?

The cause is however unknown, fibromyalgia may result after a severe injury, emotional stress, or physical stress. Any past traumatic event like the death of any loved one, viral infection are the possible causes for developing it. Besides it, some major medical conditions may be behind the pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis, certain auto-immune disorders such as lupus, and genetic disorders.

People may develop fibromyalgia due to the changes in the processing of pain messages by the central nervous system throughout the body. Or else the low levels of good hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline in their brains might cause the condition.

Does fibromyalgia ever go away?

Fibromyalgia is a disease with no known cure and often stays for a lifetime. Though the pain and other associated symptoms may be suppressed by certain medications and therapies. But it’s not a progressive disease as well, meaning it doesn’t get worse with time. Moreover, it won’t damage any of your body parts or joints, as it is connected to the neural pathway. But yes, symptoms are quite treatable with talk therapy, massage, acupuncture, and medicines.

How serious is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic illness characterized by unexplained pain all over the body, that interferes with the sleep patterns, appetite, and other daily tasks of life. The causes of fibromyalgia include several cases. In some cases, it could be changed in the neural pattern of the CNS, while in some it could be changed in levels of chemicals. And in most severe cases it could be an indication of an underlying medical condition such as rheumatoid arthritis and auto-immune disease.

It’s difficult to get the exact cause of fibromyalgia and find the appropriate treatment for it. Though it’s not fatal, it may have serious effects lifelong.

What are the worst symptoms of fibromyalgia?

The symptoms of fibromyalgia include lack of energy, fatigue, depression or anxiety, memory issues, headaches, numbness of hands and feet. The worst condition arises when it starts affecting the patient emotionally. A survey of national health interviews found that 43% of the people with fibromyalgia had severe depression and anxiety and needed immediate medications. Constant fatigue drains the person the whole day, and it stays every day of life. An average of 40-70% of people with fibromyalgia experience irritable bowel syndrome, for example, diarrhea, bloating, nausea, and gas.

About 70% of people have severe migraine headaches. Headaches may arise due to the strain in the neck, shoulder, and head muscles.

Which illness behaves the most like fibromyalgia?

Chronic fatigue syndrome, which is newly named now systemic exertion intolerance disease behaves like fibromyalgia present with fatigue, extreme pain, and damaging daily functioning. Additionally, rheumatoid arthritis is also similarly associated with severe body pain including joint pain. Certain other diseases like polymyalgia rheumatic, Lyme disease, and lupus are the conditions that mimic fibromyalgia.

Can you lose the ability to walk with fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia affects your ability to push, pull, carry, and lift. Especially those who experience joint pain as a symptom of fibromyalgia may experience difficulty in bending, walking, lifting, and performing other common life activities. The numbness and tingling caused by fibromyalgia can also make fine motor movements complex and difficult like walking, and other physical movements struggling. Although the complete loss of walking may not happen, difficulties will remain consistent.

This chronic condition affects the person mentally as well. It reduces the ability to focus or concentrate on any work, or function affecting the memory.

What organs are affected by fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia pain is a widespread musculoskeletal pain described by fatigue, lack of sleep, short-term memory loss, and mood shifts. It involves both sides of the body. Pain affects the neck, shoulders, buttocks, upper back, and arms. There are some tender points where the pain feels severe and intense.

Tender points/ affected organs by fibromyalgia:-

  • Above and below the waist
  • Lower neck in front
  • Hip bone
  • Knee
  • Edge of upper breast
  • Upper outer buttock
  • Back of the shoulders
  • Arm near the elbow
  • Back of the neck

The tender points should cause pain in the exact area where the physician applies pressure with his fingers.

Does fibromyalgia get worse as you age?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition as it makes the person unable to do the normal functions of life challenging such as walking, bending, and concentration on normal tasks. However, it doesn’t get worse with age and does not damage your body parts. It is not a progressive disease and can be handled with some medicines and therapies. Although, it is true that with age the body doesn’t stay functional enough and you may experience difficulty in tasks irrespective of the severity of the condition.

Does fibromyalgia hurt all the time?

The pain of fibromyalgia is constant and severe that affects you every day of life physically as well as emotionally. In the national health interview survey, about 87% of people were found to be affected by severe pain on most of the days or every day of their lives. Furthermore, the intense pain affects the individual with emotional symptoms such as depression and anxiety, which may last longer and needs medical help. The symptoms of fibromyalgia keep you inside the home with less involvement in other works which need physical movement. Concluding all the cases, we can say the pain may hurt you at all times. Although, the pain killers may relieve you from excessive pain.

Does fibromyalgia cause all-over body inflammation?

Well, the medical community doesn’t believe that fibromyalgia causes body inflammation. But some recent research claims that fibromyalgia may induce inflammation that is not detectable with blood tests.

 

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