Getting Medical Help

Do you think you might have fibromyalgia?

It's a condition that's more common than you might think. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) from the US Department of Health and Human Services says that scientists estimate that more than five million Americans over the age of 18 are affected with this condition.

Approximately 80 to 90 percent of those with the condition are women, according to the NIAMS. Most people are diagnosed when they're middle aged although they usually present symptoms earlier.

The NIAMS stresses that fibromyalgia is syndrome and not a disease.

By definition a disease has recognizable symptoms and signs as a result of one or more specific causes. A syndrome has no specific identifiable cause. Syndromes are generally a collection of medical problems, symptoms and signs of which medical researchers haven't been able to definitively determine the cause.

Possible Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

You might have the syndrome you have a combination of some or most of the following:

· You suffer from Restless Legs Syndrome

· You suffer from overall pain not caused by a specific injury.

· You find that you have a hard time getting a restful, full night's sleep.

· You experience morning stiffness.

· You have painful menstrual periods

· You find that loud noises or bright lights are disturbing.

· You experience numbness or tingling of the extremities.

· You have frequent and unexplainable headaches.

· You have Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

· You're unusually sensitive to hot and cold.

Perhaps you're thinking: These symptoms could describe almost any condition! You're right. That's why diagnosis can be so difficult and why some doctors don't know how to go about diagnosing the syndrome. It's also the reason why many fibro sufferers are often misdiagnosed.

Getting a Proper Diagnosis

The Mayo Clinic says that fibromyalgia is a condition that's often misunderstood. It's common for sufferers to become frustrated trying to get proper treatment. The NIAMS says that it common for people with fibro to end up seeing many different doctors before getting a proper diagnosis.

The first step to getting a proper diagnosis is to educate yourself about fibromyalgia. You also need to be your own personal health advocate. Doctors are not gods. They make mistakes. There are also some doctors who may not have the time or be willing to go through certain tests to come up with a diagnosis. And there are still some doctors who believe that if standard laboratory tests show there is no problem, the patient's pain is not real and there is nothing they can do for them.

The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) has come up with diagnosis criteria to help with the diagnosis of fibromyalgia. It's important to find a doctor who is familiar with fibromyalgia. These types of doctors aren't typically advertised in your local phone book. However, it's possible to find a physician highly knowledgeable about this syndrome if they're a specialist in arthritis.

Fibromyalgia isn't a true form of arthritis. Arthritis is a disease of the joints. But it's considered to be an arthritis-related condition. Fibro doesn't cause inflammation of the tissues, muscles or joints. But it can cause the same significant fatigue and pain that can interfere with daily activities.

Fibro is also considered a rheumatic condition, like arthritis, because it causes chronic pain and impairs the soft tissues and/or the joints.

What to Expect With Correct Diagnosis

You know you have a doctor who's giving you correct medical treatment if she's familiar with tender points. These are the 18 sites on the body that could possibly be tender points. And individual needs to have pain in at least 11 of these tender points in order to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia.


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