Fibromyalgia is a complex, disabling, and chronic (long-term) condition characterized by widespread long-term pain, fatigue, and stiffness in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons, as well as multiple tender points (places on the body where slight pressure causes pain). In addition to muscular pain and fatigue, fibromyalgia may also be associated with sleep problems, depression, and an inability to think clearly.
Some medical experts prefer the term fibromyalgia syndrome, arguing that fibromyalgia is not its own disease due to lacking scientific consensus about its cause. They also argue that there is a lack of abnormalities on physical examination and an absence of objective diagnostic tests. A diagnosis may be based on a pain index, the presence of key symptoms, and a measure of the severity of the symptoms. According to the American College of Rheumatology guidelines, fibromyalgia patients must have moderate-to-severe pain throughout the body for at least three months. Patients must also have at least 11 tender points (out of a total possible of 18) that are unusually sensitive when mild-to-firm pressure is applied.
Fibromyalgia is not a progressive disease and generally does not lead to other conditions or diseases. It may, however, lead to pain, depression, and lack of sleep. The problems associated with fibromyalgia may disrupt family or work relationships and performance, which may cause frustration and depression. Other conditions that may occur in fibromyalgia patients include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, recurrent migraine or tension-type headaches, and muscle ache.
There is no cure for fibromyalgia. However, some treatments are effective in reducing symptoms, such as medications, behavioral interventions, support groups, patient education, and exercise. In mild cases, a reduction in stress and certain lifestyle changes may be enough to manage the disease. These changes may include participation in counseling, regular exercise, physical therapy, healthy sleep habits, and stress reduction.
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