Fibromyalgia is a disease of unknown origin that affects the muscles and joints. The most susceptible people are women in their middle age as are people with rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune diseases. While there isn’t yet a cure for fibromyalgia, keeping yourself fit, eating a balanced diet and getting plenty of sleep will help ward off the disease according to the National Institutes of Health.
The pain from fibromyalgia has been described as a dull ache which can change from severe to mild from day to day. This daily change makes it difficult for patients to manage their lives and is part of the frustration with the disease.
How Do I Know If I Have Fibromyalgia?
For a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, this pain must be experienced on both sides of the body and both above and below the waist. In addition to the physical pain associated with fibromyalgia, patients often state they feel like they are in a “fog”. Disturbed sleep is one cause of this, but the disease itself may act on parts of the brain that can result in the forgetfulness and disorientation some patients experience.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Onset of symptoms vary from person to person but often include at least some of the following:
- Tenderness or soreness: This is the primary complaint among patients. When an area such as the back of the head, knees, hips and the area between the shoulders are pressed, the patient experiences pain.
- Sensitivity: Many people report that they feel more sensitive to changes in temperature. Some also say that loud noises and bright lights are sources of discomfort.
- Restless Leg Syndrome: About a third of the patients with fibromyalgia say they feel an unpleasant feeling in their legs that has been known to keep them up at night.
- Menstrual Cramps: Patients report having more painful periods.
- Painful Sexual Intercourse: Women with fibromyalgia often experience more painful and less satisfying intercourse.
- IBS: While maybe not a direct result of fibromyalgia, many patients also experience more irritable bowel or bladder symptoms. These symptoms include diarrhea, bloating, stomach cramps and constipation.
- Neurological: Many with fibromyalgia say they have trouble maintaining focused concentration and experience problems remembering things. These symptoms may be the result of disrupted or impaired sleep. Headaches are another common complaint experienced by sufferers of this disease.
How to Live With Fibromyalgia
If you do have fibromyalgia, there are ways of coping with the pain and discomfort the disease brings on. Your physician or pain management clinic can prescribe a combination of drugs to lessen the symptoms. These drugs as mentioned above do not cure fibromyalgia, but will allow the patient to lead a high-quality life. Some of the drugs that can be used are pain medication, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, sleep aids and drugs to treat narcolepsy. For self-management of the disease, be sure to eat a healthy diet being aware that some foods can trigger symptoms.
Being aware of what you eat and how it affects you is important. Exercise is also an important component of self-care. As with any exercise, check with your physician before undertaking strenuous physical activity.