Patients who have fibromyalgia experience widespread pain. About 2 percent of the population has fibromyalgia, with women having the disorder more often than men at a ratio of seven to one, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MedlinePlus added that the disorder is seen most frequently in women between the ages of 20 and 50.
The cause of fibromyalgia is not known, though many factors may contribute. These triggers include sleep disturbances, abnormal pain responses, and emotional or physical trauma. An infection may trigger or cause fibromyalgia, though a particular virus has not been identified.
The pain experienced with fibromyalgia can range from mild to severe. Patients with fibromyalgia have especially painful areas called tender points, where they experience additional pain when they place firm pressure.
These tender points are located in the soft tissue of several different areas of the body, including the knees, lower back, elbows, back of the neck, shoulders, shins, chest and hips.
Pain that starts in the tender points then spreads out. While the joints are not affected in fibromyalgia, patients may feel as if the pain does come from there. Fibromyalgia pain may feel like burning or a deep ache.
Fibromyalgia may cause morning stiffness. Some patients with fibromyalgia experience pain all day, while others have pain that gets better during the day. Several factors may exacerbate the pain, such as stress, activity, anxiety or damp weather.
Patients with fibromyalgia can experience other symptoms besides pain. For example, patients may have trouble with their memory and concentration, called “fibro fog.” Sensation changes may occur, such as having tingling and numbness in the hands and feet.
Patients may have headaches, specifically migraine or tension headaches. Palpitations and a reduced ability to exercise may also occur.
Many patients with fibromyalgia can have co-morbid conditions. For example, patients may have sleep problems. The MayoClinic.com noted that patients report being tired when they wake up, despite sleeping for a long time.
If a fibromyalgia patient has another sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome, it can exacerbate symptoms. Patients may have psychological issues, such as depression and anxiety. Fatigue can also occur. Other conditions that can occur with fibromyalgia include endometriosis and irritable bowel syndrome.
MayoClinic.com. Fibromyalgia. Web. 26 October 2011
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis — Fibromyalgia. Web. 26 October 2011
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Fibromyalgia. Web. 26 October 2011
Reviewed October 26, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith