Fibromyalgia: Have you heard of it? It’s one of those conditions that isn’t often spoken about, yet around 10 million people in the U.S. have it, according to the National Fibromyalgia Association.While it’s most common in women in their 20s and 30s (even Lady Gaga has it, who’s 32!), men still get fibromyalgia as well.
The reason we don’t hear about it much might relate to the seemingly tough diagnosis. Fibromyalgia is hard to pin down because there’s no simple way to test for it—no X-ray, no blood test, no one thing that tells you, “Yes this is fibromyalgia.”
Additionally, some of the hallmark symptoms can often be mistaken for other conditions, so sometimes doctors test for other conditions to rule those out. So really, the only way to diagnose fibromyalgia is to rely on your symptoms.
That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to your body. If you’re suffering from these common fibromyalgia symptoms, you might have this condition. See your doctor if you have…
Widespread body pain
The American College of Rheumatology guidelines for diagnosing fibromyalgia say that the patient must have of widespread pain (meaning all over—on both sides of your body and above and below your waist) throughout the body lasting for at least three months. Pain for people with fibromyalgia is most common in the morning; you might wake up super stiff, achy, and run down. Pain can also be described as overly sensitive. For example, things that don’t usually feel painful (simply someone touching yoru arm) may hurt.
Every gets tired from time to time, but people with fibromyalgia can suffer extreme fatigue even after several nights of a good sleep. The fatigue also tends to interfere with daily life, such as work or parenting. Doctors aren’t sure whether it’s the pain that wears the patients out, or if their muscles aren’t properly recovering during their sleep, but either way, the fatigue struggle is super real for people who have this condition.
This could mean anything from not being able to fall asleep to waking up frequently throughout the night. As you can imagine, getting a bad night’s sleep can contribute even more excessive pain and fatigue, only exacerbating the condition.
Intense, throbbing, chronic head pain is one thing, but when it’s happening daily, it can be really hard to do simple things, even cooking dinner or walking the dog. Over-the-counter medicines might work, so see if your doctor has any recommendations for you.
Have you heard of pregnancy brain? Fibromyalgia brain is a thing too. You might feel forgetful or just have a general sense of fogginess. People with fibromyalgia also tend to have different brain activity than people who don’t, experts say, so brain fog could be an indicator of a difference in metabolic activity in your brain.
Depression and anxiety
It’s hard to determine if depression and anxiety are simply a result of all the pain and fatigue someone with fibromyalgia could be experiencing, or if fibromyalgia patients are just more susceptible to these conditions. Either way, depression and anxiety can interfere greatly with daily life, and is a common symptom of fibromyalgia.
Most commonly, stomach upset or nausea are common in people with fibromyalgia. Lots of times, patients find out they have irritable bowel syndrome, so see a doctor if you’re experiencing frequent constipation or diarrhea.
Are you living with these symptoms or do you know someone who has fibromyalgia? Tell us how you or they have found relief.