Chronic pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia

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Chronic pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia

About 5 million or more Americans aged 18 and older are affected by a prolonged (chronic) pain disorder known as fibromyalgia. It mostly affects women and the reasons are unknown, while men and children can also be affected. People with certain disorders, like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, may also have fibromyalgia, which can hamper their disease course and the treatment.

Fibromyalgia can significantly affect the health, well-being, and overall quality of life. As per Dr. Leslie J. Crofford, an NIH-supported researcher at Vanderbilt University,"People with fibromyalgia suffer from severe pain regularly that is widespread throughout the body. Their pain is typically accompanied by debilitating fatigue, sleep that does not refresh them, and problems with thinking and memory”.

Before reaching the final diagnosis, people with fibromyalgia often have to see multiple healthcare professionals. The complications in the diagnosis arise when the primary symptoms—pain and fatigue—overlap with those of many other conditions. Dr.  Crofford said, "to make things more challenging; there are no blood tests or X-rays that are abnormal in people with the disorder." With no particular diagnostic test, some doctors may question whether a patient ’s pain is factual. “Even friends, family, and coworkers may have a difficult time understanding the person’s symptoms,” Crofford adds. Based on the criteria established by the American College of Rheumatology, a doctor familiar with fibromyalgia can confirm the diagnosis. The diagnostic assessment comprisess of the evaluation of the history of widespread pain lasting for more than 3 months and other symptoms like fatigue.

For efficient diagnosis, doctors consider the number of areas throughout the body where the patient had pain in the past week and ruling out the other causes of the symptoms. The cause of fibromyalgia is not completely understood and many aspects are likely to contribute. Crofford said, “we know that people with fibromyalgia have changes in the communication between the body and the brain." These changes the brain may interpret evident sensations as painful that might not be troublesome to people without the disorder.

Various gene alterations responsible developing fibromyalgia have been revealed by the researchers. Stressful life events may also play a part in it. Fibromyalgia doesn’t get worse over time and may even improve as it's not a  progressive disease. It does not harm the joints, muscles, or internal organs and is never fatal.

Some but not all symptoms of fibromyalgia can be relieved with the help of medications. “Drug treatments by themselves don’t result in remission or cure of fibromyalgia. While exercise may work as well as or better than medications. Besides, therapies such as tai chi, yoga, and cognitive behavior therapy can also help reduce the symptoms,” said Crofford.

Best outcomes are often obtained when people with fibromyalgia are treated with multiple therapies. “It’s critically important for health care providers to help patients develop an understanding of fibromyalgia, and to provide realistic information about treatments, with an emphasis on using exercise and other physical therapies in conjunction with medications,” Crofford added.

Crofford and her colleagues are exploring whether a treatment- TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) can aid people with fibromyalgia exercise more comfortably and lessen the pain.

Also, she and the other NIH-funded teams are also looking for markers of fibromyalgia in the blood that might ultimately guide to more targeted and effective treatments.


National Institutes for health

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Original title of article:

Suffering from chronic pain and fatigue? 

National Institutes for health
Exploratory, Fibromyalgia, Pain, Chronic, Review
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