The Most Common Signs Of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is one of the most misunderstood and mysterious disorders recognized by modern medicine. Estimates indicate upwards of ten million individuals in North America alone could suffer from the condition. Medical researchers believe fibromyalgia is the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors, but the ultimate cause, unfortunately, remains unknown. Even though fibromyalgia is not curable, there are treatments available to help patients manage their painful symptoms. While many symptoms of fibromyalgia are also seen in more common illnesses and ailments, some specific warning signs often indicate the presence of the condition. Get familiar with the most common warning signs linked to fibromyalgia to promote early detection and treatment now.

Chronic Fatigue

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One of the first symptoms to present itself when individuals develop fibromyalgia is constant fatigue. Many patients who later find out they have fibromyalgia typically reported feeling tired and overall fatigued constantly, no matter how much sleep or rest they have gotten, as one of the first unusual symptoms. This fatigue can even make affected individuals feel weak or have difficulty performing normal daily activities. While chronic fatigue can be attributed to many other medical conditions, it is still common in fibromyalgia. Of course, it is usually accompanied by other symptoms when fibromyalgia is present.

Unexplained Aches And Pains

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Aside from chronic fatigue, frequent unexplained aches and pains are a telling symptom associated with fibromyalgia. Individuals with fibromyalgia often experience a dull, lasting pain in many parts of their body or even throughout their entire bodies. Unlike the chronic pain associated with other medical conditions, the pain associated with fibromyalgia is usually experienced on both sides of the body and both above and below the waist. If these unexplained aches and pains last more than three to five months, especially if they start to interfere with an affected individual's daily activities, it could indicate the presence of fibromyalgia.

Sensitivity To Pressure On The Skin

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Individuals with fibromyalgia often report becoming more sensitive to any level of pressure being applied to their skin, a condition medically known as allodynia. This condition creates a sensation of pain or burning any time tactile pressure is placed on certain areas of the body. Commonly affected areas are the neck and chest, elbows, and buttocks. Unfortunately, there is no known permanent cure for allodynia, although reports indicate some pain medication can help lessen the pain associated with this condition, making it easier for affected individuals to tolerate and thus, to return to their daily activities without distraction.

Sleep Disturbances

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As discussed previously, chronic fatigue is one of the first symptoms patients with fibromyalgia report. Along with this fatigue, however, often comes various sleep disturbances and disorders. Individuals with fibromyalgia often report experiencing restless leg syndrome, a condition that causes an individual's legs to twitch uncontrollably or ache, typically when they are trying to sleep. Other sleep disturbances often seen alongside fibromyalgia include insomnia, a decreased quality of sleep, and frequent sleep disruptions. The lower quality of sleep means it is more difficult for the body to heal and rest, compounding many of the other symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Decreased Cognitive Performance

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Individuals with fibromyalgia often report decreased cognitive ability, a condition sometimes referred to as 'fibro-fog.' This decreased cognitive function can present itself as a loss of short- or long-term memory, difficulties concentrating on everyday tasks, inability to multitask, frequent bouts of confusion, and diminished attention span. These cognitive impairments can cause some individuals with fibromyalgia to become anxious or depressed, compounding many of the other problems. 

Some suspect the decreased cognitive performance in fibromyalgia is the result of other symptoms, specifically chronic fatigue, pain, and sleep disturbances. When individuals are tired and running on little sleep, their ability to function is compromised. Additionally, pain can distract an individual from what they are trying to do, thus reducing their cognitive function.

Depression

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Some patients with fibromyalgia can develop depression due to having a difficult time dealing with their condition and the lowered levels of hormones associated with it. They may constantly feel hopeless, helpless, and lose interest in hobbies they usually enjoy. Patients may also get feelings of anxiety and nervousness associated with their depression. If these kinds of feelings begin along with fibromyalgia, it is essential to seek help from a fibromyalgia healthcare professional, psychiatrist, or a trusted, licensed physician. They may prescribe medications to help relieve symptoms of depression. However, it can be combated naturally at home by starting to eat a healthy diet, exercise, and a good night's sleep.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

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Patients with fibromyalgia may also develop irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as one of their symptoms. IBS is a chronic digestive disorder that needs to be managed long-term. It affects the large intestine and causes a range of other symptoms including abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, gas, and diarrhea or constipation.

Irritable bowel syndrome can be caused by many different factors and affects individuals differently. Therefore the treatment plan differs from patient to patient. However, some standard methods of treatment include reducing stress, quitting smoking, limiting caffeine intake, adding more fiber to the diet, limiting dairy, drinking more water, and eating smaller meals more often instead of eating three big meals.

Interstitial Cystitis

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Interstitial cystitis is a chronic condition of an individual's bladder that causes pelvic pressure, recurrent pain in the pelvic area, urgency, and urinary frequency. This condition is categorized as one of the many diseases that make up painful bladder syndrome. The cause of interstitial cystitis is not clear, but it is thought to involve a combination of nerve signal abnormalities, defects in the bladder epithelial lining, allergies, and autoimmune reaction. Many individuals affected by fibromyalgia are also affected by interstitial cystitis. The exact correlation between the two conditions is not completely understood, but it is thought to be associated with problems and abnormalities in the affected individual's nerve impulse transmissions to and from certain regions of the brain. 

The abnormal signaling of the immune system has also been implicated as a possible association between fibromyalgia and interstitial cystitis. Increased sensitivity to stimulus around the body can cause an individual with fibromyalgia to have the same type of symptoms in the bladder region. A diagnosis of these conditions together requires the patient to have experienced fibromyalgia pain for at least three months and interstitial cystitis symptoms for longer than six weeks.

Migraines

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Migraines are a kind of severe and recurring headache characterized by a pulsing sensation or throbbing pain in the head. In some cases, migraines cause the affected individual to feel nauseous, vomit, and to be sensitive to sounds and light in their environment. Migraines may last anywhere from a few hours to several days, often disrupting daily activities and normal function. Migraines are thought to be the result of alterations in the way the trigeminal nerve and brainstem interact with each other. The trigeminal nerve is the most complex nerve of the cranial nerves and a major pain pathway for an individual's neck and head. 

Between twenty and thirty-six percent of individuals who have frequent migraines are also affected by fibromyalgia. Between forty-five and eighty percent of fibromyalgia patients are also affected by frequent migraines. The mechanism behind this association is thought to be related to how recurrent migraines in affected individuals cause an increase in neuronal response to nonphysical pain and physical pain sensations, effectively triggering random neuronal activity around the body. This random activity of the neurons increases the patient's sensitivity to the symptoms of their fibromyalgia.

Bladder Dysfunction

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Bladder dysfunction is the medical term used to characterize a range of issues with the bladder functions of holding and releasing urine. Bladder dysfunction includes symptoms of urinary frequency, hesitancy, infrequency, straining, pain with urination, urgency, and incontinence. The most common forms of bladder dysfunction reported fibromyalgia patients are frequent urges to urinate, incontinence, and chronic bladder pain. Individuals affected by fibromyalgia have a central nervous system sensitized to pain stimuli. Because fibromyalgia is a problem with the nerves and their signal transmission, it is thought that it may provoke the nerves in the brain associated with the function of the urinary system.

Urge incontinence is a type of bladder dysfunction where the affected individual feels a powerful and very sudden urge to empty their bladder. Fibromyalgia patients may also experience stress incontinence or leakage of urine due to coughing or laughing pressures on the bladder. Bladder pain due to fibromyalgia can irritate the bladder tissues and cause them to transmit inappropriate signals to the brain. These abnormal signals can result in an overactive bladder and incontinence.

Sensitivity To Sounds, Lights, And Smells

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Individuals affected by fibromyalgia can experience a symptom where they feel greater sensitivity to sounds, lights, and smells. This symptom is a part of a group of symptoms called central sensitivity syndromes. A fibromyalgia patient has an increased central sensitivity to pain-related stimuli inside and outside of their body, which is what causes them to have symptoms related to chronic pain. It is thought that this same mechanism can be applied to the nerves that control an individual's sensitivity to certain smells, sounds, and lighting conditions. 

Chemical changes in the brain of individuals affected by fibromyalgia have also been implicated as a mechanism of this sensory overload. Common sensitivities reported in fibromyalgia patients include loud or sudden noises, loud music, bright or flashing lights, potent tastes, and strong smells like those in nail salons, shampoos, natural oils, and perfume. These sensory overload symptoms greatly differ from one fibromyalgia patient to the next, as they are tailored to the brain and experiences of each patient.

Sensitivity To Temperature

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Along with sensitivities to certain sounds, lighting conditions, and smells, individuals affected by fibromyalgia can experience increased sensitivity to temperature. This symptom is the result of the abnormal and erratic core temperature fluctuations of the body in fibromyalgia patients. Affected individuals also experience this symptom as a result of their reduced ability to adapt to sudden minor changes in the temperature of their environment. The lower threshold of temperature-related pain is also a contributing factor to this manifestation. The nerves that detect temperature are not the same as the sensory nerves that detect pain. 

These nerves are distributed in a balanced fashion throughout the body on the blood vessels of healthy individuals. However, fibromyalgia patients are known to have abnormalities in the location and quantity of these types of nerves. The hands, feet, and face are the regions most commonly affected by these nerve abnormalities, but they can occur anywhere in the body. Nerve transmission from these nerves to the brain can also be erratic and abnormal, resulting in the temperature center in the brain frequently changing the temperature of the body's inner thermostat.