Those who suffer from fibromyalgia can have mild to tense pain throughout their body – it’s a debilitating disorder which can affect muscles, joints and/or the skin. The pain is not necessarily centralized to one body part or area, and can affect different places at different times or all at once.
5 million Americans that are 18 or older are affected by it, and 80-90% of those diagnosed are women. However, this does not mean that fibromyalgia doesn’t affect men, children or adolescents, despite most people being in their middle-ages when they are diagnosed.
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
There are a number of factors that are linked to the condition. These include:
- Sickness and illnesses
- Chronic, hidden infection
- Traumatic events, such as a car accident
- Injuries or repetitive injuries
- Certain diseases, such as osteoarthritis
- Immune system disorders
- Sympathetic dysfunction (resulting in symptoms like weather sensitivity)
Fibromyalgia may also be idiopathic and seemingly random – making it difficult to pinpoint the root cause in all cases.
Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
The signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia can be mild and sporadic; one day your hands might be in pain, another day your toes, and the following week your whole body might be oversensitive. This often misleads the sufferer into thinking they are all separate issues, when they are not. The symptoms are so incredibly vast and it’s a confusing and stressful time for many. This, as well as fibromyalgia being an uncommon discourse in mainstream disorders, is why the condition comes as a shock to many who are diagnosed.
So how do you stay aware? By being mindful of these 9 signs of fibromyalgia…
- Pain or Nerve Sensitivity
Pain or nerve sensitivity is usually the first sign of fibromyalgia. The pain or sensitivity may be dull or mild, or it can be very intense and sharp. It’s usually not centralized to one area either, and can affect several parts of the body at different times or all at once. The pain and sensitivity can also be affected by changes in temperature, stress or activity and movement.
- Trigger Points
Pain isn’t the only sign of fibromyalgia, it can also cause trigger areas or points around the body as well. These specific areas will cause pain with light pressure. Common places for trigger points are:
- Back of the head
- Middle of the shoulders
- Front of the neck
- Top of the chest
Identifying trigger points is a crucial step in diagnosing fibromyalgia.
- Restless Legs Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome occurs when an uncomfortable sensation crawls down your legs. The sensation urges you to move or twitch your legs. This can occur when you sleep, causing restlessness and ultimately fatigue as well.
Because of the pain and sensitivity caused by fibromyalgia, sleeping at night can be quite difficult. The lack of sleep often causes fatigue, but even the condition itself can make you feel overwhelmingly exhausted. When your body’s in pain, it takes a toll on your energy level. This in turn may interfere with your occupational, personal or social life.
- Cognitive Issues
Fibromyalgia can also cause cognitive problems – such as remembering and concentrating. Being confused, mixing up words when speaking or easily forgetting something are all symptoms to watch out for. There is no definite research as to why this happens, but it may be an effect of sleep deprivation or fibromyalgia pain to the brain.
- Headaches or Migraines
Approximately half of those with fibromyalgia develop headaches as well. This can form into more intense migraines that might lead to nausea, vomiting and visions of flashing light.
- Intense Menstrual Pain
For women, fibromyalgia has the potential to amplify pain and cramping during menstrual periods. Women might also find that sexual intercourse can become painful as well. Women with fibromyalgia also report having painful endometriosis, which is a condition that causes tissue from the uterus to grow in other parts of the pelvis.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition that causes pain and bloating in your stomach, which can lead to constipation and diarrhea.
- Stress, Anxiety and/or Depression
Because of all these symptoms, the toll of fibromyalgia can have a significant effect on overall health and happiness. The pain can be quite discouraging, making it difficult for some to even get out of bed in the morning. It’s a vicious cycle of pain, fatigue and stress that has the capability to mentally tear someone down.
It’s not difficult to understand why fibromyalgia has such a negative impact on those suffering. But this is why it is so important to be aware of what your body is going through and where to go for help. Medication may help temporarily, but more needs to be done for fibromyalgia.