Fibromyalgia is a type of rheumatic disease, or rheumatism. Over 100 different types of rheumatism exist and diagnosis can be difficult. Rheumatism is used as a term to describe this group of diseases. Once your family physician determines your condition may be a rheumatic disease, he should refer you to a rheumatologist for further evaluation. A rheumatologist deals mainly with clinical problems involving your joints, soft tissues and connective tissues, while immunologists specialize in diseases affecting your immune system.
The cause of fibromyalgia is unclear, though it runs in families and affects women nine times more than men. Often something, such as a spinal injury, car accident or physical stress, will trigger the beginning of fibromyalgia. A number of causative factors may be involved. Also, a prior diagnosis of other rheumatic diseases may increase your risk of developing fibromyalgia.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder causing pain throughout your musculoskeletal system. Pain and stiffness occur in muscles and tendons, which affect your sleep and cause fatigue. The pain is usually widespread as a dull ache beginning in your muscles. A variety of other symptoms, including headaches, temperature sensitivity, light sensitivity and memory problems, may occur. Such symptoms may be very similar to other rheumatic diseases and diagnosis may be difficult.
Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia
A diagnosis of fibromyalgia should be based on a history of widespread pain lasting more than three months and the presence of tender points. When pressure is put on 18 specific body points and you experience pain from at least 11 of the points, fibromyalgia may be the culprit. Since fibromyalgia does not have a specific test, other diseases with similar symptoms need to be ruled out. For example, hypothyroidism and polymyalgia rheumatica can mimic fibromyalgia symptoms, but can be diagnosed with blood investigations.
Treatments for Fibromyalgia
Treating rheumatism caused by fibromyalgia can be difficult and frustrating. Pharmacological treatments may be prescribed to change chemicals in the brain in response to pain, such as serotonin, norepinephrine and neurotonin. Also, pain blockers or anti-inflammatory medications may be beneficial, as well as sleep assisting medications.
Natural methods of controlling fibromyalgia symptoms can be used alone or in conjunction with medications. Body-based therapies using Tai Chi or yoga may be helpful.
Behavioral therapy can teach symptom reduction skills in your response to fibromyalgia pain. Accupressure, acupuncture and message therapy have been used to treat fibromyalgia as well. Relaxation, sleep and a regular exercise program have proven beneficial to those suffering from fibromyalgia.