Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that affects millions of Americans every year. It often goes undiagnosed given that the most common symptoms overlap with many other illnesses. Women are much more likely to be affected by fibromyalgia, and for every seven women that are affected, only one man is. Men and children can also have fibromyalgia, but the incidence is much more rare (less than one percent of men have it).
While doctors are still unclear as to what specifically causes the disease, a diagnosis can be made if a core set of symptoms are met and other illnesses are ruled out. Unfortunately for those who suffer from the condition, many people doubt that they have anything wrong with them because there is no lab-based test for the condition.
Here are 10 symptoms of fibromyalgia that are commonly confused with other illnesses.
Constant unexplained pain throughout the body.
People with fibromyalgia often feel overwhelming, chronic pain. Some common locations for this pain are the hips, elbows, and neck.
Known as “fibro-fog,” memory, concentration, and speech problems are a hallmark sign of fibromyalgia. Short-term memory loss is especially affected. Those suffering from the condition have described that they feel like they are in a constant haze.
Some have suggested that sleep deprivation in those individuals with fibromyalgia results from being uncomfortable during the night. This sleep loss may then exacerbate the cognitive symptoms of fibromyalgia. This is a frustrating aspect of the condition because sufferers aren’t able to get comfort — not even in bed.
Problems with digestion.
Many sufferers of fibromyalgia experience slowed digestion and painful cramping in their stomach/bowel. Interestingly, over half of those with irritable bowel syndrome also present symptoms typical of a fibromyalgia diagnosis.
More nausea than normal.
Widespread joint pain.
While much of the pain associated with fibromyalgia feels as if it originates in the muscles, joint pain is frequently reported.
Feelings of anxiety or depression.
People are three times more likely to have depression if they have fibromyalgia. Much of the anxiety or depression can stem from the apparent lack of knowledge about fibromyalgia in the medical community. Some people have to deal with others doubting the legitimacy of their symptoms because they are so general and widespread. More research will be needed to determine to what extent anxiety and depression stem from social and biological factors.
Waking up can be quite difficult with this condition as many sufferers feel intense muscle pain as soon as they get out of bed. Some even liken the morning stiffness and pain with the feeling you get the day after an intense workout. A hot bath with Epsom salt is recommended to relieve pain.
Odd tingling in arms and hands.
You may even feel tingling in other parts of your body, like your feet and legs. This is a common symptom of other disorders like carpal tunnel, for example. When individuals with fibromyalgia get tested for these illnesses (not knowing they have fibromyalgia), the tests often come back normal. This can be quite distressing for those who have not received a medical diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
Unfortunately, those with the condition often feel tired all the time. This can significantly interfere with everyday life, especially if the source of this exhaustion hasn’t been properly diagnosed.
If you or someone you know has these symptoms, it’s quite important to get a second opinion from a medical doctor.
It’s important to avoid taking unnecessary medications for numerous other diagnoses that may, in fact, be fibromyalgia.
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