What to do if you suspect you have fibromyalgia

We keep seeing television commercials and advertisements about fibromyalgia. Perhaps you are wondering what it is. Fibromyalgia syndrome is a common and chronic disorder characterized by widespread pain, diffuse tenderness, and a number of other symptoms. The word comes from the Latin term for fibrous tissue (“fibro”) and the Greek ones for muscle (“mayo”) and pain (“algia”).

San Rafael resident and Mayo Clinic-trained Paul Davidson, M.D., practiced internal medicine and rheumatology in Green brae for more than 40 years. He has written four books on fibromyalgia and rheumatology.

Dr. Davidson said fibro myalgia is often consi dered an arthritis-related condition, but it is not truly a form of arthritis because it does not cause inflammation or damage to the joints, muscles or other tissues. Like arthritis, however, fibro myalgia can cause signifi cant pain and fa tigue, and it can in -ter fere with a per son’s abi lity to carry on daily activities.

Also like arthritis, fibromyalgia is considered a rheumatic condition, a medical condition that impairs the joints and/or soft tissues and causes chronic pain.

Dr. Davidson says people who have fibro my algia may experience a variety of symptoms, including:

• Cognitive and memory problems (some times referred to as “fibro fog”)

• Sleep disturbances

• Morning stiffness

• Headaches

• Irritable bowel syn drome

• Painful menstrual periods

• Numbness or tingling of the extremities

• Restless legs syn drome

• Temperature sensiti vity

• Sensitivity to loud noises or bright lights

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome rather than a disease. A syndrome is a collection of signs, symptoms and medical problems that tend to occur together but are not related to a specific, identifiable cause. A dis ease, on the other hand, has a specific cause or causes and recognizable signs and symptoms.

A person may have two or more coexisting chronic pain conditions. Such conditions can include chronic fatigue syndrome, endometriosis, inflammatory bowel disease, interstitial cystitis, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, and vulvodynia. It is not known whether these disorders share a common cause


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