When any part of our body hurts, it’s unpleasant. But some individuals have chronic wide-spread body pain on a regular basis. A condition known as fibromyalgia may be the culprit.
“Fibromyalgia can cause moderate to severe pain throughout the body, often affecting joints and the tissue around them. It can be challenging to diagnose as it can bear similarities to other health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus,” said Dr. Bill Bailey, a rheumatology specialist associated with Maury Regional Medical Group Primary Care & Rheumatology in Columbia, Tennessee.
There are no specific diagnostic tools —such as lab samples or imaging tests— that can identify fibromyalgia. Instead, a physician who specializes in the care of rheumatic disorders typically evaluates a patient and their medical history to learn about their symptoms before determining whether fibromyalgia may be present.
Symptoms that may indicate someone is affected by fibromyalgia include:
- Chronic fatigue that limits daily activity
- Pain in the muscles and joints throughout the body
- Trouble getting a good night’s sleep
- Stiffness upon getting out of bed in the morning
- Numbness or tingling in the limbs
- Bowel trouble, such as diarrhea or constipation
- Feelings of anxiety or depression
- Frequent headaches
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
Fibromyalgia is usually diagnosed in individuals who are middle-aged or older, although it can affect people at any age. Women are more likely to have fibromyalgia than men. Those who have experienced great stress, are obese or have had recurring joint-related injuries are typically at greater risk.
The first step to determine whether an individual has fibromyalgia is an appointment with a specialist who can evaluate a patient’s medical history and symptoms. If fibromyalgia is diagnosed, treatment plans vary depending upon the individual patient, according to Dr. Bailey.
“Treatment for someone with fibromyalgia may include recommendations for daily exercise, a regular sleep schedule and stress management as well as medication,” said Dr. Bailey. “The ultimate goal is to reduce pain and fatigue and help the patient manage symptoms and improve their quality of life.”