Fibromyalgia Overview

Common Causes and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome that causes widespread pain, stiffness, and fatigue. Fibromyalgia primarily affects women, and it can be both physically and emotionally distressing.

Doctors have learned a lot more about this disorder in the last decade. It is now thought that fibromyalgia is a neurosensory disorder, which means that patients may be more sensitive to painful stimuli than people without fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia syndrome may overlap with other pain conditions, as well as anxiety and depression. It can be primary, or secondary to systemic lupus erythematosus (Lupus), rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic hepatitis C infection.


Fibromyalgia Causes

Researchers are trying to narrow down the cause(s) of fibromyalgia. What is know is that women are 10 times more likely than men to suffer from fibromyalgia.>1

Most likely, fibromyalgia does not simply have one main cause—rather multiple factors may impact your likelihood of developing the disorder.

For example, some researchers think there may be a genetic link to developing fibromyalgia: It seems to run in families.

Bacterial or viral infections, such as Lyme disease and hepatitis C, have also been suggested as possible causes of fibromyalgia.

Physical and emotional distress, injury, and abnormal levels of substances in the brain and spinal cord that are linked to pain sensitivity are other potential causes of fibromyalgia.

Learn more about fibromyalgia causes in our in-depth article.

Fibromyalgia Symptoms
Many people who have fibromyalgia experience a mix of symptoms, and most of these symptoms can be subtle.

Fibromyalgia symptoms typically include a combination of:

  • widespread chronic pain: This is the most common symptom of fibromyalgia, researchers have identified 19 areas of the body that patients can identify using a widespread pain index (WPI).  Pain can be shooting, aching, and burning, and it can actually limit your range of motion.
  • fatigue: People with fibromyalgia generally experience fatigue they just can't seem to shake, even with enough sleep and rest. This severe exhaustion can aggravate fibromyalgia symptoms.
  • problems sleeping: It's difficult for many fibromyalgia patients to achieve restful, restorative sleep. Ironically, getting enough quality sleep is essential to helping patients cope with their pain.
  • cognitive symptoms: Often called “fibrofog,” this describes the phenomena where patients have trouble thinking and remembering things.
  • anxiety and/or depression: The pain caused by this disorder can cause people to become very anxious and/or socially isolated.

We have a detailed article on fibromyalgia symptoms.

Fibromyalgia is often a misdiagnosed condition, so be sure to pay close attention to your symptoms. The American College of Rheumatology has recently updated their criteria for diagnosis fibromyalgia, making it easier for patients and doctors to identify painful symptoms.1-4 Talk to your doctor right away if you suspect you have fibromyalgia. With proper treatment, your fibromyalgia pain and other symptoms can be reduced.

Updated on: 11/19/15
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Exams and Tests to Diagnose Fibromyalgia