Yesterday, all around the world, was Fibromyalgia Awareness Day with a host of different events being staged in various countries to draw attention to the illness.
Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is a widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue disorder for which the cause is still unknown. Fibromyalgia means pain in the fibrous tissues in the body.
It is similar to, and sometimes confused with, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. In fact, the conditions may be related. Pain, fatigue and a host of other problems are seen in fibromyalgia. CFS displays similar symptoms. However, a practical way to differentiate the disorders is that pain is the predominant problem in people with fibromyalgia, whereas fatigue is the major complaint in people with CFS.
Most FMS patients say that they ache all over. Their muscles may feel like they have been pulled or overworked. Sometimes the muscles twitch and at other times they burn. More women than men are afflicted but it shows up in people of all ages.
Musculoskeletal pain and fatigue experienced by FMS patients is a chronic problem, which tends to have a waxing and waning intensity. There is currently no generally accepted cure for this condition.
There is often concern that FMS is the early phase of some more severe disease, such as multiple sclerosis or systemic lupus erythematosus. Long-term follow up of fibromyalgia patients has shown that it is very unusual for them to develop another rheumatic disease or neurological condition. However, it is quite common for patients with ‘well established rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus and Sjogren’s syndrome to also have fibromyalgia.
It is important for their doctor to realize they have such a combination of problems, as specific therapy for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus does not have any effect on FMS symptoms. Patients with fibromyalgia syndrome do not become invalids, though they sometimes feel that they are, with the condition – nor is there any evidence that it affects the duration of their expected life span. Nevertheless, due to varying levels of pain and fatigue, there is an inevitable contraction of social, vocational activities which leads to a reduced quality of life.
As with many chronic diseases, the extent to which patients succumb to the various effects of pain and fatigue are dependent upon numerous factors, in particular their psycho-social support, financial status, childhood experiences, sense of humour and a determination to push on with their lives.
Patients can find themselves unable to work in their chosen professions and may have difficulty performing everyday tasks. As a consequence of muscle pain, many FMS patients severely limit their activities including exercise routines. This results in their becoming physically unfit – which eventually makes their fibromyalgia syndrome symptoms worse.
These symptoms include pain, fatigue, sleep disorder, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, chronic headaches, Temporo-mandibular Joint Dysfunction Syndrome1 and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome2.
Other common symptoms can include painful menstrual periods (dysmenorrhea), chest pain, morning stiffness, cognitive or memory impairment, numbness and tingling sensations, muscle twitching, irritable bladder, the feeling of swollen extremities, skin sensitivities, dry eyes and mouth, frequent changes in eye prescription, dizziness and impaired coordination.
1Sometimes referred to as TMJD, Temporo-mandibular Joint Dysfunction Syndrome1 causes tremendous face and head pain in one quarter of FMS patients. However, a 1997 report indicates that as many as 90% of fibromyalgia patients may have jaw and facial tenderness that could produce, at least intermittently, symptoms of TMJD. Most of the problems associated with this condition are thought to be related to the muscles and ligaments surrounding the joint and not necessarily the joint itself.
2Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome increases sensitivities to odours, noise, bright lights, medications and various foods. It is common in roughly 50% of FMS or CFS patients.
- If you think you may have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Fibromyalgia Syndrome, click here.