Chronic Condition: Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition defined by three or more months of full body musculoskeletal aches, fatigue and memory problems. Fatigue in effected individuals commonly results from sleep cycle disruption by generalized pain, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea.  Memory problems specifically consist of problems with focus, attention, and concentration. Most individuals will also experience headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, painful menstrual periods, numbness or tingling of the extremities, sensitivity to light, sound and temperature. The symptoms may begin as a result of an acute injury or trauma, or simply build over time.

The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. Recent studies suggest that the cause of the disorder may be the brain’s incorrect processing of signals being sent from the limbs and muscles, making certain sensations more painful than they would be to those who do not have fibromyalgia. NIAMS (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases) supported researchers are currently investigating possible genetic dysfunction within the disorder and have already found genes that are more common in individuals with the condition.

Diagnosis of fibromyalgia is not consistent throughout the medical community and it may take those suffering from fibromyalgia multiple visits to several physicians before receiving a correct diagnosis. Some doctors are unfamiliar with the condition and some do not believe it exists but that it is a group of overlapping separate conditions. This disbelief has a basis- oftentimes it is hard to diagnose fibromyalgia as its symptoms overlap with multiple psychosomatic disorders.

Because of its unknown cause there is no cure for fibromyalgia.  Treatment must be multifaceted with different remedies for improving mood and sleep, and reducing pain.  There are three drugs that were approved by the FDA in treating fibromyalgia. One- Duloxetine is an  anti-depressants, another Milnacipran an anti-depressant mimic, is only for the treatment of fibromyalgia and the last drug, Pregabalin, treats the chronic pain caused by nervous system damage. Doctors also recommend over the counter and prescription painkillers but never narcotics as they may lead to psychological and physical addiction when used for long periods of time. Physical therapy and regular exercise also reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Patients will often enroll in therapy to learn skills for coping with physical pain and to lessen the depression that often a reaction to prolonged physical illness.

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