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Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes pain throughout the body, as well as fatigue and difficulty sleeping. What are its causes? Is there a cure for it?

Who gets fibromyalgia?

Anyone can get fibromyalgia, but more women than men do it. It can affect people of any age, even children, but it usually starts in middle age, and the chance of developing it increases as you get older. It occurs in all racial and ethnic backgrounds, according to the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal Diseases and Dermatology in the United States.

You may be more likely to develop fibromyalgia if you have:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Spondylitis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Chronic back pain
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

Fibromyalgia tends to spread in families, and some scientists believe that certain genes may make you more susceptible to it. However, this disorder also occurs in people who don't have a family history of the disorder.

Symptoms of fibromyalgia

  • Chronic and widespread pain throughout the body or in multiple locations. Pain is often felt in the arms, legs, head, chest, abdomen, back and buttocks. People often describe it as painful, burning or throbbing.
  • pooping
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Stiffness of muscles and joints
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms and legs
  • Problems with concentration, clear thinking and memory
  • Increased sensitivity to light, noise, odors and temperature
  • Digestive problems, such as bloating or constipation

Causes of fibromyalgia

The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but studies suggest that people with this disorder are very sensitive to pain, so they feel pain when others don't.

Brain imaging studies and other research have revealed evidence of altered signals in the neural pathways that transmit and receive pain in people with fibromyalgia. These changes may also contribute to fatigue, sleep disturbances and cognitive problems experienced by many people who have the disorder.

Fibromyalgia tends to spread in families, so genetic factors are likely to contribute to the disorder, but little is known for sure about the genes involved.

Researchers believe that environmental (non-genetic) factors also play a role in a person's risk of developing the disorder. These environmental triggers may include a disease that causes pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis, or mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression.

How do you know if you have fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is diagnosed primarily on the basis of the presence of pain throughout the body, along with other symptoms. Currently, there are no specific laboratory or imaging tests for fibromyalgia.

The main symptoms — pain and fatigue — have in common with many other conditions, so doctors usually try to rule out other causes.

Doctors can do the following to diagnose fibromyalgia:

1- Taking a medical history

Your doctor will likely ask you where the pain is, its intensity and duration, and whether you've had severe fatigue or cognitive problems, such as confusion or memory problems.

They may also ask if you have other conditions, because some people with fibromyalgia have other diseases at the same time.

2- Perform a physical examination

Your doctor will examine your joints to see if you have another condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus.

Your doctor may order laboratory or imaging tests to help rule out other diseases and conditions.

Can fibromyalgia be cured?

There is no cure for fibromyalgia, so treatment focuses on relieving symptoms.

Fibromyalgia treatment

Your treatment plan is likely to include a combination of psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, medications and self-management techniques, such as physical exercise and other movement therapies such as yoga or tai chi.

1- Cognitive behavioral therapies

A type of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy, which aims to change the way you think about pain, can be helpful, especially when combined with other types of therapy.

This type of therapy can also be individual or in groups with the therapist. Other types of mental health counseling may also be helpful.

2- Medications

There are a number of medications that can help relieve pain and improve sleep. Your doctor may prescribe more than one type of medication at the same time, such as.

  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-seizure drugs
  • Painkillers

You may need to try different drug combinations and dosages before getting relief from symptoms, often progressive.

Living with fibromyalgia

Having fibromyalgia can significantly affect your quality of life and your ability to participate in daily activities. There are things you can do to help you live with fibromyalgia, including:

1- Exercise

Exercise is the mainstay of fibromyalgia treatment. Although pain and fatigue can make exercise difficult, it's important for you to be as physically active as possible.

Research shows that regular exercise is one of the most beneficial ways to combat fibromyalgia, and even modest levels are beneficial.

Aerobic activities can also improve sleep and reduce anxiety and depression.

You should start exercising at a low level and gradually increase over time. Low-impact aerobic activities, such as walking, cycling, swimming and water exercise, are particularly beneficial as are mind-and-body activities, such as yoga.

Be sure to check with your doctor before you start exercising.

2- Educate yourself and get support

Learn as much as you can about fibromyalgia and join a support group — online or in person — that includes other people who work with it. Having a support network can also help you manage difficult times.

Research has shown that a type of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy, which teaches skills to better manage pain, can be helpful.

3- Anti-fatigue

Constant fatigue is one of the most worrying symptoms of fibromyalgia. The following strategies may help you sleep better and feel more rested.

  • Create a comfortable sleeping environment and establish a sleep routine.
  • I fall asleep and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Make your bed just for sleeping. Watching TV, reading, or using your laptop or phone in bed can keep you awake.
  • Keep your bedroom comfortable, and try to keep it dark, quiet and cool.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine.
  • Relax before bed. Avoid working or exercising near bedtime.
  • Try some relaxing activities that get you ready for bed, such as listening to soothing music, meditating or taking a warm bath.

My experience with fibromyalgia

In her report published by the Swiss newspaper 'Lawton', Sylvie Logan quotes the testimony of Jacqueline, who has been haunted by this disease for more than 10 years.

"I used to be a very active woman. I have gone through the hell of physical, psychological and financial collapse and deep depression accompanied by ominous thoughts, all in just a few months. It's hard to accept the fact that having to take a 30-minute break after every simple daily work."

For more than 61 years, Jacqueline has been suffering from fibromyalgia, a disease characterized by chronic pain that is sometimes severe accompanied by sleep disturbances, cognitive difficulties, digestive problems, and even permanent fatigue.

Since the onset of the disease, Jacqueline has had to learn how to deal with many symptoms on a daily basis, including physical suffering.

Jacqueline's first painful attack appeared after a series of infections, and the disease began following fatigue and stroke in 2014.

Over the years, Jacqueline has been able to find her own path to some form of rest: "I'm taking antidepressants and plan to stop them soon. I also took painkillers, but I couldn't tolerate morphine. After surgery on my back, my doctor then prescribed oxycodone, a very strong opioid. After noticing the effects of this type of drug, I told myself that I had become addicted."

In turn, hypnotherapy and meditation helped Jacqueline overcome her pain and regain confidence in her physical abilities. She began participating in monthly meetings of fibromyalgia patients in Morges, under the auspices of the Swiss Fibromyalgia Association.

Source : Al Jazeera + Agencies