Around three to six percent people across the globe and an estimated 10 million people in the United States suffer from Fibromyalgia. Celebrities living with this condition include singers Lady Gaga and Sinead O’Connor and actor Morgan Freeman.

This condition involves widespread, chronic pain in various parts of the body and it can cause fatigue, weakness and memory problems. It is considered as a rheumatic condition, such as arthritis that can impair the soft tissues or the joints. But this condition does not lead to inflammation or cause damage.

National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) has described this disease as the most common pain conditions. Though it can affect people belonging to any age group or race, at least 75 to 90 percent of the victims are women.

What is Fibromyalgia?

It is a condition in which the victim feels chronic pain in his tendons and muscles. The person may also suffer from symptoms like headaches, sleep problems or mood disorders. Other problems faced by the victims of this illness are pain and stiffness, soft tissue tenderness and musculoskeletal aches.

A brief history

This chronic pain was recognized as a disease by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1994. But the doctors are still debated about its diagnosis. They want to be clear about the method of diagnosis and the person who will do it. The controversy continues and it is called fibro wars.

Who are the victims of fibromyalgia?

People between the age group of 20 and 50 are highly at risk of developing this condition According to a literature review, the frequency rate of this disease is between 0.2 and 6.6 percent.

How does this chronic illness affect the victims?

The victims often refer to this condition as the fibro fog. It affects the person’s brain and he gradually loses his ability to remember things and concentrate. This illness can also affect many aspects of the victim’s daily life, like his emotions and sleep patterns.

What causes Fibromyalgia?

The exact cause for this chronic condition is yet to be identified. Several studies suggested that genes play an important role in developing this illness.

In addition to genetic components, an emotional distress, an injury or a virus that changes the way of brain perceiving pain can cause this illness. The victims of rheumatoid arthritis, spinal arthritis and lupus are also likely to develop this condition, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Experts have often linked this condition to a traumatic event. An online survey that involved around 600 people with this illness reported that the victims of fibromyalgia could relate to a specific event or incident, like a period of sickness that might have involved surgery, a physical injury or a stressful life event, to start the symptoms.

A research work also indicates that body’s immune system also plays a role in it. Other causes include environment, genetics, neural and hormonal factors.

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

The symptoms of this illness vary from person to person. Around 30 percent of the patients feel uncomfortable with “a gentle touch or stroking the skin”, Dr. Mary-Ann Fitzcharles, an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Rheumatology at McGill University, told Global News.

Some of the most common signs of this disease are :

  • Fatigue
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Migraines
  • Mood disorders like depression and anxiety
  • Memory or concentration problems, popularly known as the fibro fog
  • Impaired coordination and morning stiffness
  • Painful menstrual periods
  • Sensitivity to bright lights, loud noises or temperatures
  • Restless leg syndrome, tingling or numbness of extremities, Raynaud’s syndrome
  • Skin rashes and sensitivities, dry mouth and eyes

How to treat Fibromyalgia?

The treatment for fibromyalgia varies from person to person. The most common treatment focuses on pain relief. The two main drugs used to treat this disease are duloxetine and pregabalin. They alter the neurotransmitters in the brain.

Another common type of treatment for this disease is using a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) machine. This treatment is done by applying pads around the nerves that could be sending the pain messages around the area of pain and interfering with them through small electrical pulses.

This effective treatment is believed to provide pain relief by increasing the levels of endorphins produced by the spinal cord and the brain. But this treatment may not be very effective after several uses.

It is also important to note that this treatment is not appropriate for people with epilepsy as it is likely to affect them negatively. So, the victims of Fibromyalgia should seek their doctors’ advice before using it.

Other treatments for this disease include medications for muscle pain, treatment to address spinal pain or nerve, chiropractic treatments, acupuncture, dietary changes, exercise, massage and movement therapies, like pilates.

However, many of these medications could be addictive and it may have side effects. Some of the side effects of these medications include allergic reactions like inflammation or digestive upset or constipation.

What is the future of Fibromyalgia?

In time, it could be easy to find the victims of this condition and take preventative action. It could also be possible to target treatments more effectively through interactions of the immune system with inflammation and pain.

Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga attends the Fashion Los Angeles Awards on March 17, 2019, in Beverly Hills, California. Getty Images/Frazer Harrison