Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes widespread muscle pain and fatigue. The Arthritis Foundation lists it as one of the more then one hundred forms of arthritis, however the current belief is that the symptoms are caused by an overactive nervous system. For some, it causes mild symptoms while others may be affected quite severely. Fibromyalgia is an equally challenging disease to diagnose. It cannot be detected through X-rays, scans or blood work; in some cases, patients go for years without a diagnosis. Your doctor can pinpoint the condition based on a physical exam and by tracking your history of symptoms. In the early stages, your symptoms can be very general and may appear similar to signs of other conditions. Understanding what symptoms to look for will help you work with your physician to get a proper diagnosis.
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One of the most common signs of fibromyalgia even in the early stages, is chronic wide spread pain. According to the National Fibromyalgia Association you may experience this pain throughout your body; sometimes it may be a dull ache while at other times it is sharp and stabbing. It may be worse first thing in the morning and can be exacerbated by changes in temperature, activity and stress. The intensity of your pain will likely change frequently and be worse on some days than others.
Fibromyalgia pain is often accompanied by sensations of numbness, tingling or burning. These sensations can increase if you do not sleep well, are anxious or participate in too much or too little exercise.
Another classic early symptom of fibromyalgia is feeling like you cannot get a good night's sleep. Your rest may be disrupted, or you may sleep but wake up feeling unrefreshed. If you have fibromyalgia, your body may not have the right balance of chemicals to allow your body to enter a state of deep restful sleep.
Due to the sleep disturbance that occurs, you may begin to experience excessive fatigue. In the early stages, you may believe that you are just overtired. However, the National Fibromyalgia Association states that “the fatigue of FM is an all-encompassing exhaustion that can interfere with occupational, personal, social or educational activities.” It is more then just feeling tired, which everyone experiences from time to time.
In the early states of fibromyalgia, you may begin to notice problems with your memory and ability to concentrate. You may find that your are overly sensitive to noise, light and temperature change. You may have chronic stomachaches, headaches, temporomandibular joint disorder, pelvic pain, restless leg syndrome and feel depressed. According to the Mayo Clinic, these symptoms are often present in the early stages, but they do not automatically point to a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
Since the symptoms in the early stages of fibromyalgia can be so general and vary greatly from person to person, the American College of Rheumatology states that the development of tender points helps to confirm a diagnosis. With fibromyalgia, these spots are located throughout the body and they are extremely sensitive to touch and palpation by a trained physician. Having these tender points identified by your doctor is a crucial step in diagnosing this condition. You must test positive in eleven of the eighteen tender points to be diagnosed.