Fibromyalgia is a chronic medical condition that causes widespread body pain and fatigue. The pain usually occurs on both sides of the body above and below the waist. It may be described as a deep and persistent ache. The pain may also be described by many as a shooting, throbbing, and stabbing pain in the muscle that can be quite excruciating. There are usually tender areas on their body where even mild pressure is painful. The fatigue can range from feeling moderately tired to being completely exhausted.
Other symptoms include:
- mental fogginess and difficulty concentrating
- problems with short-term memory and multitasking
- muscle stiffness, especially in the morning
- unrefreshing sleep (waking up tired even after a full night's sleep)
- headaches or jaw pain
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- heart palpitations
- nausea, diarrhea, constipation, gas, or bloating
- difficulty controlling body temperature
- sensitivity to bright lights or sounds
- weight gain or loss
- feeling anxious or emotionally numb
- painful menstrual periods (women only)
Symptoms vary from day to day and from person to person.
Fibromyalgia can have a major impact on your life. Some people with fibromyalgia are unable to work because of pain, exhaustion, and difficulty concentrating. The strain of dealing with these symptoms can affect your personal relationships and social life. People with fibromyalgia are also more prone to depression.
Fibromyalgia affects approximately 3% of Canadians. Risk factors for fibromyalgia include:
- gender: about 80% to 90% of people with fibromyalgia are women
- age: fibromyalgia usually appears between ages 30 to 60
- certain medical conditions: people with sleep disorders (such as restless legs or sleep apnea), arthritis, or lupus have a higher risk of fibromyalgia
- family history of fibromyalgia
We don't know exactly what causes fibromyalgia. Researchers believe it may have something to do with the way the brain handles pain. The brain's pain receptors may overreact to pain, or there may be higher levels of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) that send pain signals.
Pain caused by problems in the nervous system is called "neuropathic pain." This pain may feel different from regular pain. Fibromyalgia pain fits this pattern, and some studies suggest that fibromyalgia pain may be neuropathic.
Genetic factors may also play a role, such as having a gene that causes the body to react more strongly to pain. It's also possible that a physically or emotionally traumatic event (such as a car accident), repetitive injuries, or an infection may trigger fibromyalgia. In other cases, though, fibromyalgia develops without any of these triggers.
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