Fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose, simply due to the fact that there are so many symptoms that can occur with the condition. Symptoms of fibromyalgia can mimic those of other conditions, further confusing the issue and often making the diagnosis of fibromyalgia a long and difficult process.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia can be divided into primary symptoms (symptoms experienced by all sufferers) and secondary symptoms (symptoms that may be experienced in addition to primary symptoms):
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Everyone with fibromyalgia experiences muscle, joint or soft tissue pain to some degree. Pain may be sharp, dull, stabbing or cramping. The American College of Rheumatology has stated that, in order for fibromyalgia to be diagnosed, pain must be present for at least 3 months and must occur in all 4 quadrants of the body (above and below the waist and on both the right and left sides of the body). Spine, chest and back pain may also be present (axial skeleton pain). In addition, the American College of Rheumatology states that pain must be present upon palpation of 11 out of 18 tender points that have been identified.
- The fatigue of fibromyalgia is not normal tiredness that may be experienced by anyone; the fatigue of fibromyalgia is overwhelming and may make it difficult, if not impossible, for the person affected to go about their daily routine. This type of fatigue is not helped by sleep or rest.
- Sleep disturbances
- There are many sleep disorders associated with fibromyalgia, including sleep apnea, bruxism (grinding of the teeth), restless leg syndrome (RLS) and alpha-EEG anomaly (frequent waking during the deep, restorative phases of sleep). People with fibromyalgia may have difficulty getting to sleep or may awaken frequently during the night. People with fibromyalgia have been found to have low levels of both serotonin and melatonin, two brain chemicals that aid in sleep. Sleep disturbances add to the fatigue that many people with fibromyalgia experience.
- Both tension and migraine headaches are common in people with fibromyalgia.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Abdominal cramping, bloating, diarrhea, constipation or alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation are the hallmarks of IBS. IBS is a functional disorder, meaning that no abnormalities are found upon diagnostic testing of the gastrointestinal tract.
- TMJ Pain
- Many people with fibromyalgia experience problems with their jaw (temperomandibular joint), such as locking of the jaw, pain and difficulty chewing.
- Many sufferers of fibromyalgia experience mood disorders, such as moods swings, anxiety and depression. Approximately 25% may experience clinical depression. Living with a chronic condition can understandably trigger symptoms of both anxiety and depression.
- ENT Problems
- Problems with the eyes (dry and irritated eyes) and ears (tinnitus, or ringing in the ears) are common. As well, the mouth and throat may feel dry all the time. Sometimes medications to treat fibromyalgia can cause dryness as described.
- Pelvic Pain
- Most people diagnosed with fibromyalgia are women, so it is not surprising that the widespread pain of fibromyalgia can target the pelvis. Pelvic pain in fibromyalgia cannot be assumed to be due to fibromyalgia until other conditions have been ruled out (i.e. ovarian cysts, cervical or uterine cancer, infection, etc.)
- Skin Problems
- Rashes, sensitivity of the skin, and sensitivity to temperature changes may be experienced.
- These are abnormal sensations, such as burning, tingling or numbness, often experienced in the hands and feet.
- Fibro Fog
- This term has been coined to describe the cognitive changes that often accompany fibromyalgia, such as memory problems, confusion and difficulty concentrating on tasks at hand.
As you can see, people with fibromyalgia can experience diverse symptoms. These symptoms are common to many other conditions, causing difficulty in diagnosis. This is why it is very important to be under the care of a physician who can rule out other possible causes of symptoms.
Signs of Fibromyalgia