What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a long-term or chronic disorder. It’s associated with widespread pain in the muscles and bones, areas of tenderness, and general fatigue. Symptoms like these are considered subjective, meaning they can’t be determined or measured by tests. Because its symptoms are subjective and there isn’t a clear known cause, fibromyalgia is often misdiagnosed as another disease.
What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is often associated with areas of tenderness, which are called trigger points or tender points. These are places on your body where even light pressure can cause pain.
Today, these points are rarely used to diagnose fibromyalgia. Instead, they may be used as one way for doctors to narrow their list of possible diagnoses. Doctors use a combination of other consistent symptoms — and possibly some medical tests — to help them determine a cause.
The pain caused by these trigger points can also be described as a consistent dull ache affecting many areas of your body. If you were to experience this pain for at least three months, doctors may consider this a symptom of fibromyalgia.
People with this disorder may also experience:
- trouble sleeping
- sleeping for long periods of time without feeling rested
- inability to focus or difficulty paying attention
- pain or dull aching in the lower abdomen
Symptoms may be a result of the brain and nerves misinterpreting or overreacting to normal pain signals. This may be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain.
What causes fibromyalgia?
Medical researchers and doctors don’t know what causes fibromyalgia. However, thanks to decades of research, they’re close to understanding factors that may work together to cause it.
These factors include:
Infections: Prior illnesses may trigger fibromyalgia or make symptoms of the condition worse.
Genetics: Fibromyalgia often runs in families. If you have a family member with this condition, your risk for developing it is higher. Researchers think certain genetic mutations may play a role in this condition. Those genes haven’t yet been identified.
Trauma: People who experience physical or emotional trauma may develop fibromyalgia. The condition has been linked with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Stress: Like trauma, stress can create long-reaching effects your body deals with for months and years. Stress has been linked to hormonal disturbances that could contribute to fibromyalgia.
Doctors also don’t fully understand the factors that cause people to experience the chronic widespread pain associated with the condition. Some theories suggest it may be that the brain lowers the pain threshold. What once wasn’t painful becomes very painful over time.
Another theory suggests that the nerves and receptors in the body become more sensitive to stimulation. That means they may overreact to pain signals and cause unnecessary or exaggerated pain.
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