Fibromyalgia: Fast Facts

  • Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome in which the central nervous system translates non-painful stimuli into pain.
  • It affects 2 to 4 percent of the U.S. population, according to the American College of Rheumatology.
  • It can affect females and males of all races and ages, including children. However, fibromyalgia is most common in women over the age of 30.
  • A range of symptoms may occur, including widespread and localized pain, fatigue, sleep problems and mood disturbances such as depression and anxiety. These symptoms vary in intensity and come and go over time.
  • Fibromyalgia is a disorder of muscles, not of joints.
  • Certain conditions, such as poor sleep, fatigue, overexertion and anxiety, may aggravate the symptoms. Though fibromyalgia is not a progressive or life-threatening condition, it affects quality of life.
  • The cause or causes of fibromyalgia are not known. However, there are many theories, including abnormalities in brain chemicals, infections, trauma, genetics and hormonal changes.
  • Fibromyalgia cannot be identified through laboratory tests. The American College of Rheumatology has established two criteria for its diagnosis: widespread pain and the presence of 11 of 18 specified tender points (or trigger points).
  • Other conditions with similar symptoms include polymyalgia rheumatica, myofascial pain syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, hypothyroidism, lupus, sarcoidosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • There is no known cure for fibromyalgia, but the symptoms can be treated. Medications such as, antidepressants, anticonvulsants and sometimes pain relievers may help. Proper nutrition, exercise and sleeping habits also play important roles in treatment of fibromyalgia. Some complementary treatments such as massage, acupuncture, relaxation techniques, biofeedback and hypnosis may also help some people.
  • The rate of disability for fibromyalgia patients may be as high as 44 percent, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
  • Fibromyalgia is the second most common disorder seen by rheumatologists and among the most common causes of widespread, chronic pain.

Reviewed by Vikas Garg, M.D., MSA

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