The new name for fibromyalgia is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS). So if that was the only thing you were interested in finding out, then you may as well skip reading this discussion right now. But if you are someone who is after some answers, then we encourage you to read these lines from A-Z. We tell you everything that you need to know about this dreadful disorder in the first place!
What is fibromyalgia?
Imagine feeling pain throughout your body without knowing the cause. And on top of that, what if this musculoskeletal pain is chronic? That’s what fibromyalgia is. Fibromyalgia is often accompanied by headaches, fatigue, mental distress, and insomnia. People with this syndrome are more sensitive to pain and pressure stimuli. Therefore, the processing of pain perception in the brain is abnormal which results in an abnormal sensation of pain in different muscles, bones, and soft tissues of the body. The exact cause of fibromyalgia syndrome is not known though. Since the associated features of the disease are not much distinct from some other conditions, fibromyalgia is hard to diagnose. Back in the day, even its existence was doubtful because it was poorly understood. Now as the understanding of the syndrome has relatively improved, the stigma around it is gradually fading away.
What triggers fibromyalgia?
It is believed that when the nerves in the brain and spinal cord are repeatedly stimulated, they alter the pain signaling by modulating the levels of certain chemicals and neurotransmitters. Furthermore, the pain receptors in the brain are overactive and signal even in absence of the pain stimuli. The other factors which are thought to be associated with triggering fibromyalgia include genetics, infections, and physical or emotional trauma. As fibromyalgia is observed to run in families, there may be a genetic predisposition of certain mutations which could make the individual more susceptible to fibromyalgia syndrome. Long-term psychological stress, injuries, chronic inflammations, and infections are some other risk factors for developing the syndrome. It is more frequently diagnosed in females than males. Hence, gender is also one of the risk factors.
How is it diagnosed?
The diagnosis of fibromyalgia is complicated, and it is usually mistaken for some other condition. This is due to the reason mentioned above i.e., not having unique characteristics. Following the pedigree analysis and physical examination, blood samples are taken to find out if the markers of inflammation are present. Imaging techniques such as X-rays and ultrasound are done to analyze if there is any bone damage or injury. So, the other conditions with the common features are first ruled out to conclude whether it is fibromyalgia or not.
Since fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic pain, its symptoms are mostly reflective of the distress and discomfort that is associated with this disorder. For example, those who suffer from this condition have stiff body outlooks all the time. More importantly, they are accompanied by fatigue that never seems to leave their body. Things don’t halt here, but get only worse from here! Slowly, pain takes over the mind of the patient as well, thereby pushing him or her into the depths of anxiety and depression. As the situation turns bad to worse, insomnia and headaches begin to surface as major issues as well. These symptoms and indications are indicative of fibromyalgia, but further evidence must be collected before establishing the diagnosis of the disease under discussion for sure. When we say further evidence, we are referring to even more stark symptoms of fibromyalgia. This even more serious set of symptoms includes jitteriness, pain in joints, and severe cases, all the features associated with irritable bowel syndrome.
Can you die from fibromyalgia?
While it is true that the reduced quality of life can make patients have suicidal thoughts, one doesn’t die from the disorder itself. Of course, certain elements cannot be ruled out while answering this answer for sure. For example, age is a big factor in determining the mortality predictability of this disorder. If someone over 90 years is suffering from the dreadful symptoms of fibromyalgia, well the chances of recovery are not too bright, to be honest. But as they say, never say never!
Treatment of fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia treatment is mostly symptomatic, which means that for each symptom, a different management strategy is adopted. Things can get pretty challenging, we can tell you that! To counter the bone-burning pain that is typically associated with this disorder, analgesics are prescribed. Some of the meds prescribed are over-the-counter pain relievers! Then, to strengthen the rapidly weakening muscles, physiotherapists recommend aerobic exercises of various nature. It is worth mentioning here that this disorder cannot be treated or managed without the help of a team of experts. The usual suspects of such a team are rheumatologists, neurologists, and physiotherapists. For those who struggle to sleep a decent six hours sleep, visits to sleep clinics are highly recommended.
Improving the quality of life is the primary goal in the management of this disorder. Patients who suffer from fibromyalgia are looking for any support they can hang onto. And cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the key players in the revival journey of such patients. Amazing things happen in life when depression is curbed out of it, and surely when anxiety is defeated, most fibro patients must feel as if life has given them a second opportunity to excel in this world. One doesn’t have to stay at a hospital! Self-management strategies can play an important role in this regard as well. All that is needed on the patient’s part is a stout heart!
The weather-fibro relation
Something interesting to ponder upon before we go! According to studies, temperate climates with low humidity levels have proven to be the most effective for fibromyalgia patients. The spring also perfectly suits the fibromyalgia patients as the weather conditions are moderate, and the humidity levels are in check. Extreme cold or extreme hot weathers were observed to be drastic for fibromyalgia flares which were triggered in these weathers the most. Rainfall or storm generally tends to worsen the symptoms, with increased severity of the pain. The patients have reported finding both the weather extremes detrimental for their symptoms. Hence, staying away from such areas is the wisest course of action any fibro patient can take. Quite the food for thought, this whole affair, won’t you agree?