Fibromyalgia is an illness that affects several women and men throughout the world. More women are affected than men.
However, it is an illness that on average takes five years for someone to be confirmed in having this. Why such a long period of time for diagnosis? This is the question that many people ask.
There are a few reasons, but it really boils down to this disease being one that mimics several other conditions that are seen in the human body.
For that reason, doctors need to be one hundred percent sure that the person does indeed have fibromyalgia. Otherwise, they could be treating the person for the wrong illness, which could have negative effects on their overall health.
There are several illnesses that mimic the effects that fibromyalgia has on the body. For this reason, diagnosis is often something that takes years to accomplish.
Due to the difficulty in diagnosing this, there are not many lab tests that are going to confirm the illness is present. There is one blood test called FM/a that can help to point the doctor in the right direction. This test looks at markers produced in the immune system blood cells.
A study has shown that this can help distinguish those who have fibromyalgia against those who may have a similar symptom like illnesses.
For the most part, a physical exam is often the best way for a doctor to diagnose fibromyalgia in patients. The doctor will focus on pressure points or tender points on the body.
When these are pressed in fibromyalgia patients they often bring about a lot of pain. Working with the patient and their pain scale, the doctor can narrow down whether this is fibromyalgia or not.
In order to rule out other issues, doctors may want x-rays of the more painful areas of the body. On this x-ray, no abnormalities in the bones or tissues are going to show with fibromyalgia.
However, if the person were to be suffering from arthritis, this would show up. A big part of diagnosing fibromyalgia is to rule out other illnesses that can be tested for. This is why the process is often so long in diagnosing a person with fibromyalgia.
Guidelines for Diagnosing
While there are no specific tests that are performed by doctors, there are guidelines lines in which doctors have to go by in order to fully determine if fibromyalgia is to blame in a person.
These guidelines include:
- Pain that is widespread in all four quadrants of the body must be present
- This pain has been present for a minimum of three months with no relief
- There is no other disease present in the body that could be causing this pain
The doctor will also look at various other aspects of a person’s life including:
- Testing for depression
- Asking about sleep issues
- Talking about the fatigue that the person may be feeling
- Looking at the levels of stress that the person has
When Diagnosis is Confirmed
Once you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a doctor will then discuss the treatment options with you and devise a plan that is catered to you. What could this plan entail?
- It will have medications that you can take to ensure that your quality of life is not affected as much.
- An exercise program that is meant to help keep you mobile and not in as much pain.
- Look at stress reduction methods that you can do in order to ensure that the stress is not making this illness even more painful.
- Sleep strategies to help ensure that you have a more restful night of sleep as this has been shown to help a person dramatically in treating those symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Doctors may suggest other facets of this plan, as they see fit. The goal is to allow you to maintain your life so that this illness does not conquer it. Too many people find that once diagnosed, their lives change drastically, and this is not what you want to happen.
The Signs of Fibromyalgia
For many people, the signs of fibromyalgia may appear suddenly or for others, they may occur over a long period of time.
However, knowing the first signs of fibromyalgia can help you in talking with your doctor about what the possible causes may be.
These signs are often:
- Pain throughout the body
- More pain when touched on what is known as tender points
- Feeling extremely tired and as though you need to sleep more despite getting the recommended amount of sleep.
- Having issues with the memory, as though you are living life in a fog.
- Having muscle tenderness and feeling overall weak.
Many people report that they often feel as though they have the flu and this simply never goes away.
When to See your Doctor
When you notice that these symptoms are sticking around, it is time to see your doctor. Upon first feeling these, if you suspect the flu, remember the flu should only last a week a most.
In these cases, you may need to go to your doctor to rule out the flu. If these symptoms persist, your doctor is going to want to talk with you about tests that need to be performed in order to rule out major illnesses and find the root cause of the problem.
Remember, being diagnosed with fibromyalgia does not mean that your life is going to stop. It simply means that you are going to have to do some adjusting.
There is no cure for fibromyalgia, however, there are ways that you can still have a fulfilling life in which you are active and a part of.
There still may be days that you hurt so badly that you cannot do what you normally do, and that is okay.
The important aspect to remember is to talk with your doctor and keep him/her updated on what is going on and how you are feeling.
Through open communication, you can help to make strides with this illness.
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