Fibromyalgia is a long-term or chronic disorder characterized by widespread pain in the muscles and bones, areas of tenderness, and general fatigue. The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it’s thought to involve a variety of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors.
This condition is often associated with other symptoms and co-existing conditions such as:
- Sleep disturbances
- Morning stiffness
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Painful menstrual periods
- Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
- Cognitive and memory issues, often referred to as “fibro fog”
Notably, fibromyalgia does not cause inflammation or damage to the painful areas, but it leads to amplified pain signals due to an abnormality in how the body’s central nervous system processes pain.
Fibromyalgia affects about 2-8% of the population, predominantly females. Although the disorder is often classified based on pain, fatigue and sleep disturbances are also significant symptoms. It can be a challenging condition to diagnose because its symptoms are quite common and can mimic those of other conditions.
Currently, there’s no cure for fibromyalgia, but a variety of medications can help control symptoms. Exercise, relaxation techniques, and stress-reduction measures also may help. The goal of fibromyalgia treatment is to minimize symptoms and improve general health.
What does fibromyalgia do to a person?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that has a significant impact on a person’s daily life and overall well-being. The specific effects vary among individuals, but they commonly include the following:
1. Physical Pain and Discomfort
The most characteristic symptom of fibromyalgia is widespread pain. This pain is typically described as a constant dull ache, lasting for at least three months. To be considered widespread, the pain must occur on both sides of your body and above and below your waist.
2. Fatigue and Sleep Disturbances
People with fibromyalgia often awaken tired, even though they report sleeping for long periods of time. Sleep may be disrupted by pain, and many patients with fibromyalgia have other sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea.
3. Cognitive Difficulties
A symptom commonly referred to as “fibro fog” impairs the ability to focus, pay attention and concentrate on mental tasks.
4. Emotional and Psychological Stress
Living with chronic pain can lead to anxiety and depression. The ongoing challenges of coping with fibromyalgia can also cause feelings of frustration and hopelessness.
5. Co-occurring Conditions
Many people with fibromyalgia also have other health problems, such as tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, and depression.
6. Reduced Physical Function
Due to pain, fatigue, and lack of energy, people with fibromyalgia might experience a reduced ability to perform everyday tasks, engage in physical activity, or maintain their usual work schedule. This reduction can contribute to social isolation and a lowered quality of life.
It’s important to note that the symptoms and their severity vary widely among individuals with fibromyalgia. Managing the condition is typically a matter of symptom management and improving quality of life through medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, gentle exercise, and lifestyle adaptations. A combination of these approaches is typically the most effective way of managing the condition.