Diseases & Conditions



Diseases & Conditions


What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a rheumatic condition characterized by muscular or musculoskeletal pain with stiffness and localized tenderness at specific points on the body.

Fibromyalgia affects two to four percent of people, women more often than men.1


What causes fibromyalgia?

The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. However, some factors could be involved in this disease, such as:2

  • Abnormal pain messages: Changes in the nervous system could lead to fibromyalgia by changing the way the system processes pain messages.
  • Chemical imbalances: Patients with fibromyalgia have abnormal levels of neurotransmitters (such as serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine) in their central nervous system. Low levels of these hormones may be a key factor in the cause of fibromyalgia.
  • Sleep problems: Having disturbed sleep patterns might be one of the reasons why some people develop fibromyalgia.
  • Genetics: People having certain genes could be more susceptible to developing fibromyalgia.
  • Stress: Fibromyalgia can be triggered by stressful events like an injury, a viral infection, having an operation, or an emotional stress.


What are the risk factors for fibromyalgia?

Some factors may increase the risk of developing fibromyalgia:3

  • Gender: Women are more prone to develop fibromyalgia than men.
  • Family history: A person is more likely to develop fibromyalgia if a close relative has the condition.
  • Rheumatic disease: Patients with rheumatic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, are more likely to develop fibromyalgia.


What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

Signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia include:4

  • Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Morning stiffness
  • Painful menstrual cramps
  • Sleep problems
  • Numbness in hands, arms, feet and legs
  • Frequent urination
  • Painful urination
  • Tender points: Tender points are specific places on the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms, and legs that hurt when pressure is put on them.


How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?

The only way to diagnose fibromyalgia is to check a person’s signs and symptoms and to rule out other conditions that could possibly cause these symptoms.

The American College of Rheumatology guidelines present criteria based on which a doctor can diagnose fibromyalgia. These criteria include a history of widespread pain lasting more than 3 months, and other general physical symptoms including fatigue, waking unrefreshed, and cognitive (memory or thought) problems.5


How is fibromyalgia treated?

Fibromyalgia is treated with medications which include:6

  • Pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers are prescribed by the doctor to relieve the pain.
  • Antidepressants: Antidepressants may help ease the pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia.
  • Anti-seizure drugs: Medications designed to treat epilepsy are often useful in reducing certain types of pain.


How to cope with fibromyalgia?

In order to improve their symptoms, patients with fibromyalgia can do the following:7

  • Reduce stress
  • Get enough sleep
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Limit caffeine intake



  1. Fibromyalgia http://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Fibromyalgia (Accessed March 2, 2016)
  2. Fibromyalgia http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Fibromyalgia/Pages/Causes.aspx (Accessed March 2, 2016)
  3. Risk factors http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fibromyalgia/basics/risk-factors/con-20019243 (March 2, 2016)
  4. WebMD http://www.webmd.com/fibromyalgia/guide/fibromyalgia-symptoms (Accessed March 2, 2016)
  5. Questions and Answers About http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/fibromyalgia/#d (Accessed March 2, 2016)
  6. Treatments and drugs http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fibromyalgia/basics/treatment/con-20019243 (Accessed March 2, 2016)
  7. Lifestyle and home remedies http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fibromyalgia/basics/lifestyle-home-remedies/con-20019243