Symptoms of fibromyalgia include generalized body aches, fatigue, poor sleep, and mood problems. But all of these symptoms are common to many other conditions. And because fibromyalgia symptoms can occur alone or along with other conditions, determining which symptom is caused by which problem can be time-consuming. To make matters even more confusing, fibromyalgia symptoms can come and go over time.
This is why the transition from symptoms of fibromyalgia to a diagnosis of fibromyalgia can take a long time.
No specific test for fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia cannot be easily confirmed or ruled out with a simple lab test. Your doctor cannot detect it in your blood or see it on an X-ray. Rather, fibromyalgia seems to be linked to changes in the way the brain and spinal cord process pain signals. a diagnosis.
For the diagnosis of fibromyalgia, one of the criteria is widespread pain throughout the body for at least three months. “Generalized” means pain on both sides of the body, as well as above and below the waist.
Fibromyalgia is also often characterized by additional pain when firm pressure is applied to specific areas of your body, called tender points. In the past, at least 11 of these 18 points had to test positive for sensitivity to diagnose fibromyalgia.
But fibromyalgia symptoms can come and go, so a person may have 11 tender points one day and only eight tender points another day. And many family physicians weren’t sure how much pressure to apply during a tender point exam. If specialists or researchers can still use the tender points, another set of guidelines can help you see through them.
Fibromyalgia or not?
These diagnostic criteria include:
– Generalized pain lasting at least three months
– Presence of other symptoms such as fatigue, waking up tired and difficulty thinking
– No other underlying condition that could be causing the symptoms
Exclusion of other possible causes
It is important to determine if your symptoms are caused by another underlying problem. The most common culprits are:
– Rheumatic diseases
Some conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, and lupus, may begin with generalized pain.
– Mental health problems.
Disorders such as depression and anxiety often result in widespread pain.
– Neurological disorders
In some people, fibromyalgia causes numbness and tingling, symptoms that mimic those of disorders such as multiple sclerosis and myasthenia gravis.
Tests that may be needed
Although there is no lab test to confirm a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, your doctor may want to rule out other conditions that may present with similar symptoms. Blood tests may include:
– a complete blood count
– Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
– Thyroid function tests
– Vitamin D level
Your doctor may also perform a careful physical exam of your muscles and joints, as well as a neurological exam to look for other causes for your symptoms. If there is a risk that you have sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend a sleep study.
Other clues for diagnosing fibromyalgia
People with fibromyalgia also often wake up tired, even after sleeping for more than eight hours at a stretch. Brief periods of physical or mental exertion can leave them exhausted. They may also have problems with short-term memory and the ability to concentrate. If you have these problems, your doctor may ask you to grade the severity of their effects on your daily activities.
Since fibromyalgia often coexists with other health conditions, your doctor may also ask you if you have:
– irritable bowel syndrome
– Jaw pain
– Anxiety or depression
– Frequent or painful urination
Possible triggers of fibromyalgia
In some cases, fibromyalgia symptoms begin soon after a person experiences a mentally or physically traumatic event, such as a car accident. People with post-traumatic stress seem to be more likely to develop fibromyalgia. Your doctor may therefore ask you if you have recently experienced a traumatic event.
As a genetic factor appears to be involved in fibromyalgia, your doctor may also want to know if other members of your immediate family have experienced similar symptoms.
All of this information, taken together, will give your doctor a much better idea of what may be causing your symptoms. And that determination is crucial to developing an effective treatment plan.