Fibromyalgia causes fatigue and chronic, widespread pain in muscles and soft tissues surrounding the joints throughout the body. It is fairly common, affecting approximately 2 to 4% of Americans, mostly females.
Although its symptoms are similar to other joint diseases such as arthritis, fibromyalgia is actually a form of soft tissue or muscular rheumatism that causes pain in the muscles and soft tissues. Fibromyalgia is more prevalent in women of childbearing age.
The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but researchers believe there may be a link with sleep disturbance, psychological stress, or immune, endocrine, or biochemical abnormalities. We know that the brain's ability to process pain signals is abnormal in those affected with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia mainly affects the muscles and the points at which the muscles attach to the bone (at the ligaments and tendons).
Pain is the most common and chronic symptom of fibromyalgia. Pain may begin in one area of the body, such as the neck and shoulders, but eventually the entire body may become affected. The pain ranges from mild to severe and may be described as burning, soreness, stiffness, aching, or gnawing pain. Fibromyalgia usually is associated with characteristic tender spots of pain in the muscles. Individuals may experience symptoms differently.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia may resemble other medical conditions or problems. That's why it's especially important to consult a doctor if any of the symptoms of fibromyalgia are present. No laboratory tests can confirm a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Instead, diagnosis is usually based on an established protocol that incorporates reported symptoms and examination findings. Other medical conditions with overlapping symptoms must also be excluded.
Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia, the disease can often be successfully managed with proper treatment, as fibromyalgia does not cause damage to tissues. Innovative FDA-approved medical therapies provide durable relief to many fibromyalgia sufferers.
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- Fibromyalgia. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/fibromyalgia.html