What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia may occur as a primary condition (not associated with any other disease) or may occur in conjunction with other chronic illnesses such as systemic lupus or rheumatoid arthritis and may be linked to low mood. No clear pathophysiological mechanism for fibromyalgia has been established, but evidence suggests that there is an abnormality in central pain processing. There is much ongoing research in this regard.
The risk of fibromyalgia may be increased in people who have a family member with the condition. Women are also more likely to develop the disease than men.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of fibromyalgia include chronic widespread pain associated with unrefreshing sleep and tiredness. Multiple other symptoms have been noted in fibromyalgia including a foggy head, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, and pins and needles.
How is it diagnosed?
Diagnosing fibromyalgia can allow the patient’s multiple symptoms to be explained, thereby reducing fear and doubt.
How can it be treated?
Fibromyalgia has no cure, but a range of drug and non-drug treatments can reduce symptoms and their impact on the patient’s life.
Trial evidence for all forms of treatment in fibromyalgia generally shows only small to moderate average effects. However, in each individual patient, it is important to confirm or refute the diagnosis (and exclude other disorders) and work out an individualised treatment plan. This may involve finding the best drug “fit” and also educating the patient and adapting lifestyle and diet as necessary.
Exercise such as aquatherapy is particularly helpful. Multiple alternative therapies have been suggested but the mainstay of therapy includes education, improving sleep, treating depression if present and drug therapy tailor made to the individual patient.