Fibromyalgia syndrome is a chronic disorder that affects the muscles and soft tissue. It is characterized by widespread pain, sensitivity to touch, fatigue and a number of other symptoms.
Found predominantly in women, the syndrome is tough to detect and there is no known cure. Here are nine facts about fibromyalgia that can help you learn more about the painful disorder.
1. The origin of the word “fibromyalgia” is the Latin term for fibrous tissue (fibro) and the Greek ones for muscle (myo) and pain (algia).
2. The most common symptom of fibromyalgia is chronic musculoskeletal pain. The pain is widespread, that is, occurring on both sides of the body, both above and below the waist. The constant dull ache lasts for at least three months.
3. Patients suffering from fibromyalgia experience decreased levels of energy with moderate or severe fatigue. Most patients wake up tired. A reason for this is that sleep is often disturbed by the pain. Many also suffer from sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea.
4. Fibromyalgia is also characterized by a slowdown of cognitive functions. Commonly referred to as “fibro fog,” a person’s ability to focus, pay attention and concentrate on mental tasks is impaired.
5. The causes of fibromyalgia are unknown and there is no cure for the condition. Pain management, distraction techniques and resistance training have reportedly helped patients in dealing with the major symptoms.
6. There are no diagnostic laboratory tests to detect fibromyalgia and the major symptoms — pain and fatigue — overlap with those of a number of other conditions. Doctors generally have to rule out other possible causes to establish a diagnosis for fibromyalgia.
7. Even though it is often considered similar to the condition, fibromyalgia is not a form of arthritis. There is no inflammation or damage to the joints, muscles, or other tissues. However, the two do have common symptoms — pain, fatigue, and inability to carry out regular daily activities. Both are also considered rheumatic conditions — impacting the joints and soft tissues, causing chronic pain.
8. The likelihood of women developing the syndrome is significantly higher than that of men. While some estimates say that fibromyalgia affects about five million Americans (over the age of 18), 80 to 90 percent of the cases are women, for unknown reasons.
9. The syndrome is not fatal and does not damage the joints, muscles, or internal organs. For a number of the patients, the condition does improve over time.