Even though Fibromyalgia Syndrome affects nearly six million Americans, it is a syndrome that is difficult to diagnose and is misunderstood. The most common symptoms are chronic pain and fatigue which, depending on the severity of the syndrome, can be debilitating and always affects quality of life. It can strike both women and men of any age, although it is more commonly found in women between twenty and forty years of age.
Fibromyalgia is a syndrome and not a disease, so it is something that develops rather than having a root genetic cause. In the past, doctors were more likely to pass off the syndrome as hypochondria in the women who were affected. Today Fibromyalgia still tends to be mis-diagnosed due to the varied symptoms that mimic other syndromes and diseases. In addition, since every gender, race and age is affected by the syndrome, it is difficult to pinpoint the root cause behind Fibromyalgia Syndrome.
Doctors and researchers are still uncertain of the causes of Fibromyalgia Syndrome although theories and speculation abound. Fibromyalgia has been found to be more common in families, so a genetic link is probable. Beyond that, there does not seem to be one common contributing factor.
One theory is that a pre-existing sleep disorder develops into the syndrome. The reason behind this is that, without uninterrupted deep sleep, the body is unable to repair muscles properly, and thus results in chronic muscle pain. Chronic stress and anxiety also lead to increased muscle tension and sleep deprivation, which can develop into the syndrome.
Another theory is that infections or immune system deficiencies are the root cause of Fibromyalgia Syndrome. Both of these factors contribute to faulty muscle repair and surrounding tissue, such as ligaments and tendons, resulting in chronic pain. Finally, injury, such as from a car accident, can also develop into Fibromyalgia, although this too is only a theory.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Researchers have taken biopsies of Fibromyalgia patients to see if that would yield any additional information to the causes or diagnosis of the syndrome. Unfortunately the results offered little to no information, thus ruling out biopsies as a method of diagnosis.
There is a check list that doctors use in order to diagnose Fibromyalgia Syndrome which includes eighteen tender points and chronic pain in four quadrants of the body. There are also multiple symptoms connected to Fibromyalgia which are also check points for doctors making the diagnosis. Because of this multiplicity of symptoms, which vary in case to case, there is not one Fibromyalgia Syndrome treatment that works for all Fibromyalgia sufferers, leading to a plethora of treatments, from drug therapy to self help.