Fibromyalgia is a painful, chronic condition, which unfortunately healthcare professionals know little about. Because doctors have yet to determine the exact cause behind fibromyalgia, it can be a big challenge to treat, however, healthcare specialists experienced in chronic pain have gathered some evidence behind its possible causes.
What causes fibromyalgia?
Research studies have reported that women are also more likely to suffer from fibromyalgia. A fact that, unsurprisingly, has no known explanation to this day. There is evidence on what may cause fibromyalgia, but the results are varied. Findings include:
- The chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia may be due to abnormalities in the endocrine system and autonomic nervous system. Some researchers feel that changes in the autonomic nervous system (which is triggered whenever you’re stressed) and endocrine system (which releases hormones in response to stress) induces the widespread chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia. An autonomic nervous system that is over-active induces excessive hormones that sensitize pain receptors, causing pain and tenderness.
- Fibromyalgia may be linked to physical or emotional trauma via post-traumatic anxiety disorder.
- Genetics may play a role because fibromyalgia seems to run in families.
- Viral or bacterial infections may cause the condition. Hepatitis C, the HIV virus and Lyme disease have been correlated with fibromyalgia and some evidence suggests the disease may be also caused by vaccinations.
- Muscle tissue abnormalities might be to blame. Muscle abnormalities may be structural, metabolic, or functional. Muscle abnormalities may be brought on by disturbances in the endocrine system from repairing, in that diminished growth hormone levels that may prevent muscle tissue.
- Some research suggests that the musculoskeletal pain of fibromyalgia may be caused by central sensitization. When the nervous system becomes sensitized, which increases the amount of pain, central sensitization occurs.
- It might be linked to abnormal blood flow. A November 2008 study ascertained that fibromyalgia may be linked to blood circulation in two areas of the brain. A study found that women with fibromyalgia have blood flow in the area. Conversely, they have too little blood circulation in the area of the brain that’s involved in pain response. The researchers also found that the more severe the symptoms, the more acute the blood circulation.
Like most ailments, it’s quite possible that fibromyalgia does not simply have one trigger; rather, many factors may impact your likelihood of developing the problem. The study may yield conclusions that are separate, but it’s currently giving the medical community a better comprehension of fibromyalgia. Subsequently, it is going to help create treatments.
Fibromyalgia Diagnostic Process: What Could Occur
It’s extremely tricky to diagnose fibromyalgia. There isn’t one test that a physician can use as a way to definitively say, “Yes, you still have fibromyalgia.” Because there are several conditions that have similar symptoms, including chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, and lupus, diagnosing fibromyalgia is more a process of elimination.
It could take a while between when you notice symptoms and if you are diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and that may be frustrating. Try to remain patient and remember that your doctor is working to obtain the reason for your pain and symptoms. Making the perfect diagnosis makes treatment much more successful.
- Medical History: Your physician will have a full medical history, asking you about any other conditions you have and what runs in your family.
- Share Your Symptoms: You will also have to detail your symptoms: where it hurts, how it hurts, and just how long it hurts. Diagnosing fibromyalgia is dependent upon your report of these symptoms, so it’s best to be as specific and accurate as you can. You may choose to keep a pain diary (a record of all of your symptoms) so that it’s a lot easier to share info with your physician through the consultation.
- Because fibromyalgia has many potential symptoms and co-existing conditions, attempt to be a thorough as possible when speaking about what you have been experiencing. Tell your doctor if you have been having trouble sleeping, should you are feeling tired a lot of the moment, if you have had any headaches, etc..
- Physical Evaluation: The doctor can also palpate (so he is going to apply light pressure with the hands) that the 18 tender points.
Other Potential Tests
As mentioned above, the symptoms of fibromyalgia can be extremely similar to other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, and ankylosing spondylitis. Your physician will want to rule out any conditions, so he or she may order tests. Remember, these tests are not to diagnose fibromyalgia; they are to eliminate any other possible conditions.
The Physician may order:
- Anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) test: Anti-nuclear Compounds are abnormal proteins which could be on your blood if you have lupus, a condition with symptoms similar to fibromyalgia). Whether your blood has these proteins, the physician will want to find out in order to rule out lupus.
- Blood count: By taking a look at your blood count, your doctor may have the ability to see an additional cause for your intense exhaustion, such as anemia.
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR): An ESR test measures how fast red blood cells fall to the bottom of a test tube. In people with rheumatic disease (such as rheumatoid arthritis), the ESR or “sed rate” is sometimes higher. The red blood cells fall into the bottom of the tube, which suggests that there is inflammation within the body.
- Rheumatoid factor (RF) test: In many patients with an inflammatory illness (like rheumatoid arthritis, which has symptoms related to fibromyalgia), a higher degree of the rheumatoid factor could be identified from the blood. A higher degree of RF doesn’t guarantee that your pain is brought on by rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but doing an RF evaluation will help your doctor explore the possibility of an RA diagnosis.
- Thyroid tests: These tests can help the doctor rule out thyroid problems.
Closing Note on Fibromyalgia Diagnosis
Again, assessing fibromyalgia can take awhile. Your job as a patient is to be more proactive in the diagnostic procedure; be your personal advocate. By way of instance, as soon as your physician orders a test, ask why. Be sure you know the way that test will help figure and what the results will tell you. Continue asking questions until you do, if you do not understand the outcomes or reasoning.
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By Dr. Alex Jimenez
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