So, what are the symptoms of fibromyalgia? The primary symptoms of fibromyalgia are:
- widespread and chronic pain (lasting more than three months)
- sleep disturbance
- increased pain in response to touch
Some people may also have these symptoms of fibromyalgia:
- Weakness of the arms and/or legs
- Muscle spasms or twitching
- A feeling of tingling or “pins and needles” (paresthesia)
- Problems with their bowels can develop in people who have fibromyalgia
- Nerve pain
Many people with fibromyalgia symptoms also experience a condition known as “fibro-fog.” This is a problem with cognitive function, and symptoms include:
- Difficulty with concentration
- Impaired long and short-term memory
- Decreased speed in the performance of tasks
- Impaired ability to multitask
- Decreased attention span
- Cognition overload
The fundamental symptom of fibromyalgia is creeping muscle pain that endures longer than three months. Extensive pain is characterized by pain both above and below the torso and on both the right and left sides of the body. The disease is also often linked to symptoms of depression and anxiety. Other times, fibromyalgia symptoms might possibly be happening due to another disease process that co-exists in the patient. Some of these conditions include:
- Functional bowel syndrome
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Dermatological conditions (diseases or disorders of the skin)
- Symptomatic hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Myoclonic twitches: very fast uncontrollable muscle jerks, especially near the eye
- Urinary symptoms
- Myofascial pain: trigger points in the body that are very painful, and when touched, may produce pain in a different location (referred pain).
Even though fibromyalgia is based on pain spread throughout the body for classification purposes, the pain may also be localized in specific areas, such as in the neck and shoulders, the hips or lower back, or other sites.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia disease can be triggered or made worse by various stressors. These include emotional stress, pain due to inflammation, autoimmune disorders, or physical trauma.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia in females
Women with fibromyalgia experience more painful periods than usual. In some cases, the severity of pain changes depending on their menstrual cycle.
Women in the postmenopausal period or experiencing menopause may suffer from more severe fibromyalgia symptoms.
Fibromyalgia during menopause may increase feelings of:
Some fibromyalgia symptoms in females can imitate perimenopause or “around menopause” symptoms that include:
- bad quality of sleep
- troubles with memory or thinking through a process
Endometriosis can also occur in women with fibromyalgia. This is a condition when the uterus tissue grows in other pelvic parts. If these symptoms do not disappear after menopause, consult your doctor.
Fibromyalgia is a challenging disease to diagnose. No single test exists that can fully prove its existence, and there is considerable debate over what signs and symptoms must be present for a fibromyalgia diagnosis to be made. Some question if it is even possible to objectively diagnose fibromyalgia symptoms at all.
Patients with fibromyalgia symptoms typically do not have abnormal lab results, and many of their symptoms closely resemble joint disorders like osteoporosis or arthritis. In many cases, a physician diagnoses fibromyalgia after considering all the possibilities of what might be wrong, based on the patient’s gender, age, symptoms, medical history, location, lifestyle, and other factors. Then he narrows down all these possibilities to the most likely one. This is called a “differential diagnosis.”
The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) has defined a set of criteria that must be present in a patient to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia:
- Pain duration: The pain has been present for more than three months.
- Pain location: All four quadrants of the body (above and below the waist and both sides) have been affected by the pain.
In the past, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia was also based on the presence of “tender points.” There are 18 of these points designated, but a person with fibromyalgia symptoms can also experience pain in other areas of the body. The number of these “tender points” is no longer included as criteria for diagnosis. The number of these sites that are tender or “active” at any certain point may change over time and with varying circumstances.
The use of these points has been considered in the past to prove that a patient was malingering or pretending to be ill or to cast doubt on whether an individual has fibromyalgia. It is important to note that no studies have been completed on the use of control points in diagnosing fibromyalgia, and the use of tests like this would be ill-advised.
Fibromyalgia is recommended to be considered a diagnosis in people complaining of widespread pain. The criteria for classifying diagnoses by ARC was created as a way to help select candidates for research purposes. It was never intended to be used in the clinical setting to make clinical diagnoses. Since the criteria by ARC were first published, it has been determined that studies using mechanical testing devices that diagnose fibromyalgia require a doctor’s subjective opinion. A computer or a machine cannot make the diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
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