Fibromyalgia - symptoms and signs

Do you have fibromyalgia, a chronic condition associated with widespread pain, stiffness and tenderness of the muscles and soft tissues around joints?

The severity of fibromyalgia signs and symptoms vary, and occur in different combinations in different individuals, but commonly include the following:

-          - The primary symptom is widespread musculoskeletal pain, which persists for several months and frequently affects the joints, neck and back. The pain is often accompanied by stiffness, which is characteristically worse in the morning and may last all day. Patients often wake up and feel that they have been “run over by a bus”.

-          - Pain typically includes multiple "tender points". These are localised tender areas that are acutely painful when moderate pressure is applied (e.g. pressing with the thumb until the nail blanches). Tender points may be found on the back of the head, the neck, upper and lower back, shoulders, upper chest, elbows, hips and knees.

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- Fatigue and sleep disturbances. Fatigue occurs in 90 percent of people with fibromyalgia, and may be related to the disturbed sleep patterns that commonly occur with the condition. Typically, this is experienced as waking in the morning feeling tired and unrefreshed, sometimes with muscle aches.

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- Some people with fibromyalgia have trouble falling asleep, or may wake repeatedly during the night. Studies suggest that this may be caused by a sleep disorder called alpha-wave interrupted sleep pattern, in which deep sleep is interrupted by bursts of "wakeful" brain activity. Thus people with fibromyalgia often lack the deep, restorative stage of sleep, called "non-rapid-eye-movement" (non-REM) sleep.

-         - Other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnoea, nocturnal myoclonus and restless legs syndrome, may also be associated with fibromyalgia.

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- About 40 to 70 percent of people with fibromyalgia experience constipation, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and bloating – symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome ("spastic colon").

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- Chronic headaches and facial pain. Half of people with fibromyalgia have recurrent migraine or tension headaches, which may be related to tenderness in the neck and shoulders. Up to 90 percent experience jaw and facial pain.

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Heightened sensitivity. About 50 percent of people with fibromyalgia report increased sensitivity to different sensory stimuli (such as odours, noises, bright lights, certain foods and changes in the weather), and a low pain threshold.

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Numbness, tingling or a swollen sensation in the hands and feet.

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- Chest pain or pelvic pain.

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Irritable bladder, causing frequent painful urination.

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- Dry eyes and mouth.

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Dizziness.

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- Mental and/or emotional disturbances occur in over half of people with fibromyalgia. Such symptoms include poor concentration, forgetfulness, mood changes, irritability, depression and anxiety.

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