Reaching a fibromyalgia diagnosisIf you’ve been experiencing chronic pain and fatigue, among other strange symptoms, you may wonder if you have the condition of fibromyalgia.Some of the more common symptoms of fibromyalgia can include:
n Generalized painn Fatiguen Mind fogn Stiff joints or muscles.n Irritable bowel syndromen Headachesn Jaw painn Anxiety or depressionIf this happens to you, you probably want to know what the diagnostic process for fibromyalgia is.Unfortunately, at this time no single test can be done to definitively diagnose fibromyalgia. More research is currently underway to develop a blood test to confirm that a person has fibromyalgia. This test is expected to be ready for use in five years to help symptom sufferers reach a proper fibromyalgia diagnosis. Meanwhile, doctors have to use other means to diagnose this painful disease.*** Currently there is a test to diagnose Fibromyalgia , unfortunately it is not available in all countries. ***
How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?The first step is to see your doctor, either your GP, or preferably a rheumatologist. The American College of Rheumatology has established guidelines that a doctor will look for before diagnosing a person with fibromyalgia.Your doctor will look for specific symptoms, such as:u Widespread pain that has lasted at least three months. Generalized pain is defined as pain that occurs on both sides of your body, in addition to the upper and lower part of your waist.u Presence of other fibromyalgia symptoms, such as fatigue, waking up tired, memory problems, and trouble thinking clearly.u There are no other conditions that can cause the symptoms.In addition to a physical exam of your muscles and joints, your doctor will likely want to do a series of blood tests. Some of the tests they can do include:l A complete blood count.l A test of your ESR . A sedimentation test can detect the presence of inflammation in your body, as well as monitor levels of inflammation.l A test of your thyroid function.l Your vitamin D levelsAs mentioned above, it is important for your doctor to rule out any other possible conditions that have similar symptoms, such as:n Rheumatic diseases. Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, and ankylosing spondylitis have some of the same symptoms.n Mental health problems. Disorders such as depression and anxiety often cause widespread pain, and can cause fatigue.n Neurological disorders. Some with fibromyalgia experience numbness and tingling, symptoms that mimic those of disorders such as multiple sclerosis, and myasthenia gravis.
Known diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia that are hardly used anymoreIn the past, the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia included the tender point test, as part of the criteria to diagnose a person with fibromyalgia, but this is no longer considered accurate enough to be used as a diagnostic test.For this test, the doctor applies pressure to 18 points on the body. This includes the back of the head and neck, and spots on the shoulders, elbows, knees, and hips. If 11 or more of these points were tender, the doctor would give a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. However, it is now known that pain and tenderness in fibromyalgia can come and go and vary in intensity.Some doctors can still use this test to monitor their patients’ pain levels.Unfortunately, from personal experience, I can tell you that it is not a fun test. When I was first diagnosed, over nine years ago, this test was done every time I visited my rheumatologist. I often commented that if I wasn’t really in pain before I went to the doctor, I was after.Is fibromyalgia a real diagnosis?There are some who still believe that a fibromyalgia diagnosis is the medical code for “I don’t really know what’s wrong with you . “However, this is simply not the case because fibromyalgia is a real disease.According to Harvard Health Publishing , “Experts believe that fibromyalgia can be caused by a malfunction of the nervous system. Researchers using MRI scans to examine the brains of people with fibromyalgia have found abnormalities in the part of the brain that processes pain signals from the body. It appears that this part of the brain is essentially increasing the intensity of normal pain signals, which could cause the body to feel pain without a physical cause. “
Why is there still such a great stigma around fibromyalgia? Part of the problem is likely due to the fact that people with fibromyalgia look healthy even though they don’t feel healthy. It seems that this may be a difficult concept for those around us to understand .However, as time passes and more is discovered about this disease, the more easily it will be accepted by society in general.Learn to cope with a fibromyalgia diagnosisThere is no treatment for fibromyalgia . However, there are a number of things that can help us cope with some of the most troublesome symptoms we live with.u Medication. There are a number of prescription and over-the-counter medications that can help decrease pain levels.u Supplements. Vitamins and supplements can help with a variety of symptoms, such as pain, fatigue, muscle cramps, and can help you get a better quality of sleep.u Exercise. Gentle, low-impact exercise has been found to be one of the best ways to decrease overall pain. Finding the balance in your activity levels can help reduce fibromyalgia symptoms. Learning not to try too hard, even if not doing too little, can really go a long way.u Support groups. Having a good support system is an important part of coping with fibromyalgia. Having people in your life who offer practical help is great, but having someone listen and offer moral support is invaluable. Not everyone has people in their life who can provide that kind of support. This is where support groups come in . Whether you meet with a local group or chat with people online, having others who have been through who you are can be a great tool to help you cope.Not much is known about fibromyalgia yet … But doctors and researchers are learning more, all the time! Thanks for reading!