Fibromyalgia is a condition that affects the muscles, ligaments and tendons; if often leads to widespread pain. Fibromyalgia is more common in women than men and usually develops between the ages of 35 and 60.
What causes fibromyalgia?
The exact cause of fibromyalgia remains unknown but research has suggested a number of possible factors which may contribute to this condition; these include:
- Problems with the transmission of pain messages: fibromyalgia may be caused as a result of pain signals not being properly processed by the central nervous system. The brain may also become more sensitive to pain signals; this is thought to be a major cause of the pain experienced all over the body by sufferers of fibromyalgia.
- Lower than normal hormone levels: people that have low levels of hormones (including noradrenaline and serotonin) may be susceptible to fibromyalgia as hormones play an important role in many of the body’s processes.
- Disturbed sleep: disrupted sleep may be a cause of fibromyalgia
- Other health conditions, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
Symptoms of fibromyalgia
There are many different symptoms that may be associated with fibromyalgia; symptoms may vary considerably from person to person. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Pain which may be felt all over the body; pain may be acute or chronic
- Increased sensitivity to pain, light and temperature. People that suffer from fibromyalgia often take a lot longer to recover from painful accidents or injuries than those who don’t have fibromyalgia.
- Difficulties sleeping: people with fibromyalgia often experience problems with sleeping and subsequently feel fatigued the next day; this can also lead to a lack of concentration and poor performance at work.
- Stiffness and muscle spasms
- Lack of concentration and a shorter than usual attention span
- IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
- Mental health conditions including anxiety and depression
- Painful periods (in women)
- Tingling and numbness in the hands and feet
- Dry eyes and mouth
Treatment for fibromyalgia
There is currently no cure for this condition; however there are treatments available that can ease the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Treatments vary considerably because people often experience a number of different symptoms. Common treatments include:
- Medication: medication is often prescribed to ease pain, relax muscles and help patients to sleep properly; antidepressants may also be prescribed in some cases
- Complementary therapy: experts are divided on the efficacy of complementary therapies but some patients may find them beneficial; examples of these therapies include acupuncture, massage, osteopathy and therapies to help with mental health, including counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy.
- Lifestyle changes: try to exercise regularly and avoid stressful situations. Eating a healthy diet and taking time out to relax will also help to ease some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia.