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Fibromyalgia – A Pain You Must Live With?

Fibromyalgia symptoms

Are you looking for information about the symptoms of fibromyalgia? Here is an overview of the symptoms and signs of fibromyalgia that you can use to help you talk with your doctor.

The main fibromyalgia symptoms include deep muscle pain, painful trigger points or tender points, and morning stiffness. Other major symptoms of fibromyalgia include sleep disorders, fatigue and anxiety. In order to make an accurate diagnosis, your doctor will need to review the signs and symptoms you are experiencing. Fibromyalgia affects far more women than men.

What are the common symptoms of fibromyalgia?
  • Common symptoms of fibromyalgia, also known as fibromyalgia syndrome or FMS, may include:
  • Anxiety
  • Concentration and memory problems – known as “fibro fog”
  • Depression
  • Digestive disorders
  • Discolouration of hands and feet (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
  • Dryness in mouth, nose and eyes
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Morning stiffness
  • Pain
  • Painful menstrual cramps
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Sleep problems
  • Swelling, numbness, and tingling in hands, arms, feet and legs
  • Trigger points
  • Urinary symptoms
Is pain the most common symptom of fibromyalgia?

Yes. Widespread pain is characteristic of more than 97% of patients with fibromyalgia. In fact, pain is usually what forces a person with fibromyalgia to see his or her doctor.

Unlike the joint pain of osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia pain is felt over the entire body. It is a deep, sharp, dull, throbbing or aching pain that is felt in the muscles, tendons and ligaments around the joints. NHS Choices describes the muscle and tissue pain as tender, aching, burning or stabbing. A sufferer may also experience increased sensitivity and prolonged pain.

For some people with fibromyalgia, the pain comes and goes. The pain also seems to travel throughout the body.

Do painful trigger points accompany FMS pain?

Along with the deep muscle soreness and body aches, people with fibromyalgia have painful trigger points or localised areas of tenderness around their joints that hurt when pressed with a finger. It is the tissue around the joints rather than the joints themselves that are painful. These trigger points or tender points are often not areas of deep pain. Instead, they are superficial, located under the surface of the skin.

The location of trigger points is not random. They are in predictable places on the body. If you apply pressure to trigger points on a person without fibromyalgia, he or she would just feel pressure. For a person with fibromyalgia, pressing the trigger points is extremely painful.

Is fatigue a fibromyalgia symptom?

Next to pain and the tender trigger points, fatigue is a major complaint. Fatigue in fibromyalgia refers to a lingering tiredness that is more constant and limiting than what we would usually expect. Some patients complain of being tired even when they should feel rested, such as when they have had enough sleep. Some patients report the fatigue of fibromyalgia as being similar to the symptoms of flu. Some compare it to how it feels after working long hours and missing a lot of sleep.

With fibromyalgia, you may feel:
  • Fatigue on getting up in the morning.
  • Fatigue after mild activity such as shopping or cooking dinner.
  • Too fatigued to start a task such as folding clothes or ironing.
  • Too fatigued to exercise.
  • More fatigued after exercise.
  • Too fatigued for sex.
  • Too fatigued to function adequately at work.
Are sleep disturbances a common symptom of fibromyalgia?

Sleep disturbances are common in most people with fibromyalgia. While people with fibromyalgia may not have difficulty falling asleep, their sleep is light and easily disturbed. Many sufferers wake up in the morning feeling exhausted and unrefreshed. These sleep disturbances may help create a constant state of fatigue.

During sleep, individuals with fibromyalgia are constantly interrupted by bursts of brain activity similar to the activity that occurs in the brain when they are awake. Some tests in sleep laboratories done on individuals with fibromyalgia have shown that people with fibromyalgia experience interruptions in deep sleep. These interruptions limit the amount of time they spend in deep sleep. As a result, their body is unable to rejuvenate itself.

Some people with fibromyalgia report that the morning stiffness may last only a few minutes, but in general, it is usually very noticeable for more than 15 to 20 minutes each day. In some cases, though, the stiffness lasts for hours, and in others it seems to be present all day.

While most people feel stiff when they first wake up, the stiffness associated with fibromyalgia is much more than simply a minor aching. In fact, people with fibromyalgia have the same feeling of stiffness in the morning that people feel with many types of arthritis, especially rheumatoid or inflammatory arthritis.

Is depression a fibromyalgia symptom?

Depression is a key symptom for most people with fibromyalgia. Approximately one out of every four patients with fibromyalgia has current major depression. And one out of every two people with fibromyalgia has a lifetime history of depression.

Stress from the constant pain and fatigue can cause anxiety. Also, chronic pain can result in a person being less active and becoming more withdrawn. This, in turn, can lead to depression.

It is also possible that anxiety and depression may actually be a part of fibromyalgia, just like the pain. Many patients with depression and fibromyalgia tell of having great difficulty concentrating on their work along with impaired short-term memory at times.

What causes swelling and tingling hands with fibromyalgia?

Neurological complaints – such as numbness, tingling and burning – are often present with fibromyalgia. While what causes these feelings is unclear, numbness or tingling sensations in the hands, arms, or legs are felt by more than half of the people with fibromyalgia. The feelings may be especially bothersome when they occur in the mornings along with morning stiffness on arising.

The medical term for these sensations is paraesthesia. The sensations usually happen at irregular times. When they do occur, they may last a few minutes or they may be constant. While the sensations can be bothersome, they are not severely limiting.

Are chronic headaches a symptom of fibromyalgia?

Chronic headaches, such as recurrent migraine or tension-type headaches, are common in about 70 per cent of people with fibromyalgia. They can diminish a person’s ability to cope with and self-manage FMS.

The headaches may be a result of pain in the neck and upper part of the back. They are often caused by tightness and contraction of the muscles of the neck, which results in a type of headache called tension-type headaches or muscle-contraction headaches. They may also be caused by tenderness from trigger points over the back of the head and neck. It is important to remember that other medical problems can cause headaches that should be properly diagnosed and treated by your doctor.

Is urinary frequency a symptom of FMS?

Feeling an urge to urinate, urinary frequency, painful urination, or incontinence can happen in about 25% or more of fibromyalgia cases. Since these problems can also be caused by other bladder and kidney diseases, such as an infection, check with your doctor to be sure no other problems are present.

Do menstrual cramps affect women with fibromyalgia?

Unusually painful menstrual cramps occur in 30% to 40% or more of women with fibromyalgia. These cramps, along with other symptoms, are usually present for years.

How is Raynaud’s phenomenon related to fibromyalgia?

Raynaud’s phenomenon is present in 25% to 50% of people with fibromyalgia. With Raynaud’s, your fingers or toes may become quite pale, cold or blue when exposed to cold temperatures, for example when you are holding a cold glass. The pale or blue changes usually last a few minutes and may be accompanied by pain. When the hands or feet are warmed, they return to normal.

What is the relationship between restless legs syndrome and fibromyalgia?

Restless legs syndrome results in discomfort in the legs, especially the areas of the legs below the knees, and the feet. It is especially bothersome at night. The feeling can be painful, but most commonly it is described as the need to move the legs to try to make them comfortable.

Restless legs syndrome often interrupts sleep as the person tries to find a comfortable position for rest. As with other symptoms, restless legs syndrome can be found alone, with fibromyalgia, or along with other medical problems.

Is dryness in the mouth, nose or eyes a symptom of fibromyalgia?

Dryness in the mouth, nose or eyes can happen in otherwise normal people. But 25%or more of people with fibromyalgia have this feeling. Sometimes, this is caused by Sjögren’s syndrome. This occurs when the salivary glands and tear glands do not produce the normal amounts or quality of saliva to lubricate the mouth or tears to lubricate the eyes. There is no single known cause.

Although the dryness is mainly uncomfortable, the loss of normal lubrication for the eyes can increase the risk of infections. The loss of normal saliva and lubrication in the mouth increases the chances of tooth decay. Talk to your doctor or see an optician for the eye dryness and your dentist for good prevention advice and treatment.

Further Reading:

Fibromyalgia – Treating fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia – What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia – What treatments work for fibromyalgia?

What is fibromyalgia?

Why am I so tired? Top 12 causes of fatigue

Fibromyalgia – Causes of fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia – Diagnosing fibromyalgia

This article was taken from:

WebMD Medical Reference

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Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on January 31, 2011

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