Jennifer, 33, hurt all over and was exhausted when she arrived for her 9 a.m. doctor’s appointment. She was too lethargic to even ask questions as the physician explained her diagnosis. However, she was shocked when he asked her if she realized she had all the risk factors for fibromyalgia.
What is Fibromyalgia?
This disorder has received a lot of publicity in the last two decades. Arriving at a diagnosis of fibromyalgia is a rocky path for both the patient and the doctor, who usually can’t find anything specifically wrong.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition marked by widespread pain in your muscles, ligaments and tendons. If you have it, you’ll feel fatigue that might border on exhaustion and experience specific tender points in your body, according to the Mayo Clinic.
WebMD reports that while researchers continue to look for reasons why fibromyalgia occurs, its causes remain unknown. Among the potential culprits they’re studying are hormonal disturbances, chemical imbalances that affect nerve signaling, stress, trauma and heredity. Some experts believe the disorder is the result of a combination of physical and emotional factors.
The American College of Rheumatology has established a standard of two criteria necessary for a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. First, you must experience widespread pain that lasts at least three months. In addition, you must experience tenderness in a minimum of 11 of 18 designated points on the body.
What are the Risk Factors for Fibromyalgia?
Experts have established a number of risk factors for developing this condition:
Your sex. If you’re a man, you can suffer from fibromyalgia. However, the disorder occurs far more frequently in women than in men.
Age. While fibromyalgia can occur during childhood or your senior years, it most often appears during the early and middle adult years.
Sleep patterns. Researchers are divided as to whether sleep disturbances cause or are the result of this condition. Sleep disorders like restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea and nighttime muscle spasms in your legs are common in patients with fibromyalgia.
Genetics. If you have a family history of the disorder, you might face a greater risk of developing it than someone doesn’t have one.
Rheumatic disease. If you suffer from a rheumatic disease like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondilitis, you’re more likely than the general population to develop fibromyalgia.
Others. You have an elevated risk if you’ve suffered from certain infections. The occurrence of physical or emotional trauma such as post-traumatic stress disorder has also been linked to fibromyalgia.
There is no cure for this condition. Doctors usually recommend a treatment regimen comprised of both medication and self-care in order to reduce symptoms and promote your general health. Medications that can help many patients include analgesics, antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs.
If you have this chronic condition, you might benefit from physical therapy for balance and pain reduction. Counseling can help you deal with the stressful situations that result from having the affliction. Being aware of the risk factors for fibromyalgia is an important first step in becoming educated about this disorder.