Fibromyalgia is difficult. It’s difficult for those that have it. It’s difficult to treat. And because presented symptoms can be similar to Lyme’s disease, anxiety, depression, and a host of other syndromes and diseases—fibromyalgia is also difficult to diagnose and treatments are limited. People can suffer from a range of widespread pain, tenderness, fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, depression, anxiety, and a multitude of other debilitating symptoms. And though fibromyalgia is one of the more nebulous medical conditions, there are some things we do know:
- Fibromyalgia affects 2-4% of people, mostly women.
- Doctors diagnose fibromyalgia based on a patient’s relevant symptoms (what you feel), no longer just on the number of tender points.
- There’s no test to detect this disease, but you may need lab tests or X-rays to rule out other health problems.
- Though there’s no cure, medications can relieve symptoms, such as pain, fatigue, and sleep disorders.
- Patients may also feel better with proper self-care, such as exercise, getting enough sleep, and stress relief methods.
Updated Fibromyalgia Diagnosis Criteria
In 1990, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) outlined diagnosis criteria for fibromyalgia that required widespread pain to be felt throughout the body for at least three months, and pain to be felt in 11 of 18 “tender point” or trigger point locations on the body when these points are physically palpated, or pressed.
In 2010, the ACR updated its diagnosis criteria to “identify non-tender point diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia; these criteria are not meant to replace the  ACR classification criteria, but to represent an alternative method of diagnosis1”.
In essence, the updated criteria do not require a tender point examination, and instead involve a symptom severity scale based upon how you’ve felt over the past 3 months.
Most Common Chronic Fibromyalgia Symptoms
- Joint and/or muscle tenderness or pressure
- Sleep problems
- Problems with memory or thinking clearly
Some patients may also have:
- Depression or anxiety
- Mirgraine or tension headaches
- Digestive problems: irritable bowel syndrome (commonly called IBS) or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Irritable or overactive bladder
- Pelvic pain
- Temporomandibular disorder (TMJ)—symptoms include facial or jaw pain, jaw clicking, and ringing in the ears
Some patients may also experience a heightened sensitivity to smell, particularly to perfumes, chemicals, or foods.
Could I Have Fibromyalgia?
If you’re wondering if you could have fibromyalgia, the first step is as always to see your doctor. And remember, the latest diagnostic criteria focus on a careful evaluation of symptoms (how you feel); so it’s important to keep a diary and record how you’ve been feeling in regards to the above symptoms, and note any recent changes to your condition. While there is no cure, your doctor may be able to help alleviate uncomfortable symptoms.