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What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia, sometimes referred to as FM, is “characterized by chronic widespread pain, unrefreshing sleep, physical exhaustion, and cognitive difficulties.”

Fibromyalgia is diagnosed in patients across the world, and it is estimated to affect between 2 and 4 percent of general populations.

Some contest whether or not fibromyalgia is real, and that means there is disagreement on how the disease is contracted, diagnosed and treated. Doctors cannot agree on whether or not it exists, much less the cause.

Unlike most medical conditions, a single specialist will typically not be enough to test for fibromyalgia.

Various doctors will instead look at the range of symptoms, then conduct tests to exclude other conditions that might explain those symptoms.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Chronic, widespread pain
  • Poor sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble thinking clearly
  • Memory issues
  • Muscle tension
  • Migraine headaches
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Mood problems like anxiety or depression
  • “Fibro fog”
  • Confusion

While doctors may disagree on whether these symptoms stem from fibromyalgia itself or are simply side effects of persistent pain, many fibromyalgia patients suffer from some or all of them.

It’s not clear at this point what causes fibromyalgia. Many who develop fibromyalgia have dealt with trauma, or physical or emotional abuse. Fibromyalgia patients are significantly more likely to have PTSD than their peers.

It’s not uncommon for patients to have other mental health complaints like anxiety or depression. Some patients report that their symptoms flare up when they are exposed to stress, both mental and physical.

Fibromyalgia is more common among women than men. There is evidence of a genetic component, as people with a family history that includes fibromyalgia are more likely to be diagnosed themselves.