Fibromyalgia refers to a chronic disorder that is characterized by widespread pain, diffuse tenderness, fatigue, and a number of other symptoms. Although fibromyalgia is considered an arthritis-related condition, it is not technically a form of arthritis. This is because it does not result in inflammation or damage to the muscles, joints, or other tissues like arthritis does. Similar to other arthritis conditions, however, fibromyalgia can cause significant pain and fatigue. It can also affect a patient’s daily quality of life.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Pain is the primary symptom of fibromyalgia, and painful areas are called tender points. These tender points are often found in the soft tissue at the back of the neck, shoulders, chest, lower back, hips, shins, elbows, and knees. This pain may feel like a deep ache or a shooting pain. Although the pain may seem like it is coming from the joints, the joints are not actually affected by fibromyalgia.
In addition to pain, tenderness, and fatigue, patients with fibromyalgia may also experience these common symptoms:
- Sensitivity to loud noises and bright lights
- Sleep disturbances
- Temperature sensitivity
- Restless leg syndrome
- Irritable bowl syndrome
- Painful menstruation
- Cognitive and memory problems
- Morning stiffness
The pain associated with fibromyalgia may worsen due to cold or damp weather, anxiety, stress, or activity. Most patients with fibromyalgia experience a depressed mood and sleeping problems. Some patients have pain all day long, while for others it improves at night.
Risk Factors and Causes
It is estimated that 5 million adult Americans are currently living with fibromyalgia. While doctors don’t know exactly what causes the condition, it is thought to be a combination of factors including genetics, infections, and physical or emotional trauma. Genetics are an important factor, not only because it appears that genetic mutations can make you more susceptible to fibromyalgia, but also because an estimated 80-90% of sufferers are women. Certain infections also appear to raise one’s risk of developing fibromyalgia, as do certain rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatic arthritis and lupus. Finally, emotionally or physically traumatic events – along with post-traumatic stress disorder – have been linked with the disease.
Diagnosis and Treatment
There are no diagnostic laboratory tests or generally accepted objective tests for fibromyalgia. However, a doctor familiar with the condition can make a diagnosis based on the American College of Rheumatology criteria. These include the following:
- Widespread pain lasting more than 3 months
- Waking up still feeling tired
- Memory or thought trouble
Widespread pain is described as pain that affects all four quadrants of the body. This means it must be experienced on both sides of the body as well as on the top and bottom halves of the body.
As many patients with fibromyalgia know, the right rheumatologist in Los Angeles can make all the difference when it comes to treatment. Three medications are currently approved by the FDA for treatment of fibromyalgia. These are duloxetine, milnacipran, and pregabalin. Duloxetine and milnacipran are also used as antidepressants, while pregabalin is an anti-seizure drug. Painkillers may also to help ease the pain, and NSAIDs such as aspirin and ibuprofen treat inflammation. Other common treatments include :
- Physical therapy
- Stress relief
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Sleep improvement
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How important is diet in dealing with fibromyalgia?
A: The connection between diet and fibromyalgia is uncertain, but many people do report feeling better when they eat or avoid certain foods. However, no specific diet has been proven to reduce fibromyalgia.
Q: Will my fibromyalgia improve over time?
A: While fibromyalgia is considered a chronic disease, it does not have to get worse. It does not cause damage to the joints, muscles, or internal organs, and in many people the symptoms do improve over time.
Q: What can I do to start feeling better?
A: The first thing you should do is to see an expert rheumatologist like Dr. Baker who specializes in the treatment of fibromyalgia. In addition, you should try to focus on getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly, eating well, and making the changes you need in your daily life to manage your condition.
To learn more about fibromyalgia, visit medlineplus.gov
Consult a Los Angeles Fibromyalgia Doctor
Are tired of living with the constant pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia? Have other doctors told you there’s nothing they can do to help manage your symptoms? Not only is Dr. Baker a leader in the field of rheumatology and the treatment of fibromyalgia, but she’s also renowned for her sensitive and compassionate treatment. Learn more about fibromyalgia at medlineplus.gov or contact Dr. Baker today at (310) 274-7770 to find out what she can do to help you.
Next, learn about tendinitis and bursitis.