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How To Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia symptoms can overlap with autoimmune diseases and other musculoskeletal conditions making it difficult to diagnose. The defining symptoms of fibromyalgia are often associated with other subjective and objective symptoms which occur in combination.

It is estimated that fibromyalgia syndrome affects about 2 percent of the U.S. population.

In 1990, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) listed two primary criteria for the classification of fibromyalgia. 1) A history of widespread pain involving all four quadrants of the body (right side, left side, above waist, below waist) for a period of at least 3 months.

The second criteria from the ACR which points to fibromyalgia is, upon physical examination, the presence of pain in at least 11 of 18 tender points when touched or pressed with force amounting to the equivalent of 4 kg. or 9 lbs.

What Are Fibromyalgia Tender Points?

More recent data indicates that there may be an increased sensitivity to pain throughout the body, pain may be migratory (move around) or may exist as chronic regional pain. Most experts are said to believe fibromyalgia results from abnormal central nervous system function. Response to stress and psychobehavioral factors may also contribute to fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia primarily occurs in women of childbearing age. Children, the elderly, and men can also be affected. Besides the defining symptoms of pain and tenderness, there are many nondefining symptoms associated with fibromyalgia including:

Fatigue, night sweats and sleep disturbances.

Memory difficulties and cognitive difficulties.

Tension or migraine headaches, temporomandibular joint syndrome, rib cage pain (noncardiac chest pain), chronic pelvic pain, plantar or heel pain.

Fluctuations in weight, heat or cold intolerance, subjective feeling of weakness.

Ear-nose-throat complaints, multiple chemical sensitivities and a wide array of allergic symptoms.

Hearing, vision, and vestibular (balance) abnormalities.

Heartburn, palpitations and irritable bowel syndrome.

Evidence on echocardiogram of mitral valve prolapse, esophageal dysmotility (muscles of esophagus not working properly), neurologic conditions causing hypotension (low blood pressure) and syncope (fainting).

Mood disorders such as depression and anxiety occur more commonly in people who have fibromyalgia.

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