Fibromyalgia, or FM, is a serious medical condition that can be characterized by chronic widespread pain along with a heightened sense of pain as a response to pressure.
It can cause lasting, and often times debilitating, muscle discomfort and fatigue. It is also known as fibrositis or fibromyositis. While scientists continue to study this disease, more questions arise than answers.
What Causes Fibromyalgia
Currently, there is no known cause for fibromyalgia; however, numerous scientists believe that it can be caused by a combination of genetic as well as environmental factors, with about half the risks being attributed to each possible factor.
Studies have found that DNA from family members of people with fibromyalgia and other chronic disorders have displayed numerous genes that could help explain why chronic disorders run in families.
Each gene involved plays an important role in how the nervous system responds to pain and touch. Research has also found that fibromyalgia isn’t necessarily passed to children from parents, but the disorder does appear to group within families.
Compared to families without a history of fibromyalgia, those that have immediate family members with the disorder are more likely to have the disorder themselves.
Each gene plays an important role in the scientific makeup of who we are. Genes help us understand the nervous system’s response to pain.
Some of the genes that are related to pain are also linked with anxiety and depression, which may be why some antidepressant medication can help reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Exposure to various chemical and environmental toxins like solvents, pesticides, and heavy metals have been shown to cause many symptoms of fibromyalgia.
It is important to note, however, that environmental stressors are not necessarily always physical; they can be social as well. Being a part of a stressful culture and environment can also play a major role in causing the disorder.
While being stressful can contribute to other illnesses such as high blood pressure and heart disease, there is also the possibility that it can trigger fibromyalgia and its symptoms. Further research is necessary to understand the direct link between fibromyalgia and the environment.
Unfortunately, there is no test for fibromyalgia, thus a doctor must rely solely on your group of symptoms to make a proper diagnosis.
Major symptoms can occur with other conditions, so it can take time to properly diagnose this disorder.
Often times, patients with suspected fibromyalgia may have laboratory test results that appear normal then which their pain is then associated with arthritis or osteoporosis.
In order to rule out other diseases and disorders, doctors may conduct blood tests like complete blood count, Vitamin D levels, and thyroid function tests. He or she may also perform a physical examination of the muscles and joints, as well as conduct a neurological exam.
In 1990, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) created criteria to determine if a patient is indeed suffering from fibromyalgia.
The criteria, informally known as ACR 1990, concluded that a patient may have fibromyalgia if they have a history of widespread pain that lasts longer than three months, that affects all four quadrants of the body and if there is a pain at any of the 18-designated possible tender points.
In 2010, the American College of Rheumatology added an additional provision in diagnosing fibromyalgia. The revised information now included a widespread pain index and a symptom severity scale.
The widespread pain index now accounts for 19-general body areas and the severity scale rates the severity of fatigue, cognitive symptoms, general listlessness, and unrefreshed waking on a scale from 0 to 3, with a total score ranging from 0 to 12.
About 5 million American have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and it is a condition that affects more women than men on average. About 9 in 10 fibromyalgia patients are women, and it seems to develop during menopause.
It has been found that women with fibromyalgia tend to have a lower pain tolerance and have more symptoms than men. With that being said, both genders respond well to treatment. This disorder is found in all age groups, but symptoms don’t normally begin until a person is in their 30s, 40s, and 50s.
Because there is no known direct cause of the disorder, there is also no universally accepted treatment or cure for it. Most treatment out there consists of symptom management.
Development over the years, however, have led to improvement in treatment to include things such as medication, behavioral interventions, exercise, and even acupuncture. Most treatment requires the patient to use or do a number of different treatments at one time.
Some doctors believe that prescribing anti-depressants can help improve pain, depression, fatigue and disturbances with sleep. It can take a few months before a patient begins to see results, however.
Some findings show that acupuncture can alter the brains chemistry, therefore helping the patient increase their pain tolerance. It seems to modestly reduce chronic pain, thus playing a beneficial role in reducing fibromyalgia symptoms.
Fine needles are used to puncture the skin at various depths on different points on the body. The needles are left in place for about 20 to 30 minutes.
Sometimes heat or electricity is used to further stimulate the area. For many, acupuncture can increase their quality of life by reducing their ongoing pain.
Fibromyalgia is a debilitating disorder that if not treated, can cause a person to be in an immense amount of pain and suffering.
There are numerous factors that go into understanding, studying, and even treating fibromyalgia. Scientists have seen that there are many different causes for fibromyalgia, with most cases stemming from genetic factors and environmental factors.
It is important to know your family history and to have an understanding of what your social surroundings are like, that way doctors can get the best picture of all contributing factors to your illness so that fibromyalgia can be properly diagnosed and treated.
While there are numerous treatment options for people, it seems that acupuncture and antidepressants are effective in treating fibromyalgia symptoms.
There is still much to be studied and understood about this disorder, but as scientists explore more, it seems that a cure for the disorder is possible.