Definition

Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by chronic, widespread pain as well as a variety of other symptoms, such as tenderness, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping. These symptoms tend to vary in intensity over time.

Fibromyalgia can make it difficult to perform everyday activities, such as climbing stairs, light household tasks, and walking short distances.

Prevalence

Fibromyalgia affects an estimated 2% to 4% of the US population or as many as 6 to 12 million people.

Although fibromyalgia affects both men and women, approximately 90% of fibromyalgia sufferers are female. It is estimated that there could be as many American women living with fibromyalgia as there are living with diabetes.

Cause

The underlying cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, however, research is ongoing in the field.

Central nervous system defects are thought to play an important role in the pathophysiology of fibromyalgia. Alterations in both the ascending and descending pain pathways in the central nervous system may contribute to fibromyalgia pain.

Diagnosis

There is no objective laboratory test or marker for diagnosis. However, diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia were developed in 1990 by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR).

These criteria are:

  1. A history of widespread pain lasting more than three months and
  2. The presence of pain in 11 of 18 tender point sites on certain areas in all four quadrants of the body.

Today, the diagnosis is based on patient history, physical examination, laboratory evaluations, and exclusion of other diseases.

Unfortunately, patients are often referred to numerous physicians, including a variety of specialists before receiving an accurate diagnosis. Nearly 70% of people with fibromyalgia have not been diagnosed.

It is estimated that it takes an average of 5 years for a fibromyalgia patient to receive an accurate diagnosis.

Management

There are FDA-approved medications that can help manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia, as well as lifestyle changes that may be appropriate.

Although no specific diet has been shown to relieve symptoms, a healthy and balanced diet can increase energy levels and alertness, and help prevent other health problems.

People with fibromyalgia may also benefit from moderate exercise, such as low-impact aerobics or daily stretching.

Find more information and resources for living with fibromyalgia HERE.