Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia

Medically Reviewed By : Dr Sravya, MBBS, MS 

Introduction

Fibromyalgia causes pain in your whole body, especially muscles and joints. You may also experience fatigue and brain-related issues like difficulty in concentration and memory. The exact cause of this condition is not known yet. Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia however one can manage its symptoms with some effective available solutions. For this, an accurate diagnosis of fibromyalgia is necessary. 

In this blog, we will discuss how doctors diagnosed this challenging condition and we will also discuss fibromyalgia symptoms, causes, and treatments. But first, let’s understand what exactly is fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition. It means this condition lasts for a long time. It can affect any individual irrespective of age and gender. It causes pain in bones, tendons, and muscles. In short, you would feel pain in your whole body. 

People affected with fibromyalgia often suffer from symptoms that go and come suddenly. Researchers don’t know the exact causing factor of this condition. However, according to a study, some health factors like psychological factors, stress, or genetic factors can cause fibromyalgia.

When you feel a sudden new pain in your body then it is usually the early sign of fibromyalgia. If you face any sign of this condition like fatigue and pain, you should seek medical advice immediately to avoid further health risks.

What are the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

Often fatigue and pain are the two common signs of fibromyalgia. However, you may also experience, 

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

Researchers have not found the exact cause of this condition. However, according to studies specific genes that you got from your biological parents can cause fibromyalgia. This means that fibromyalgia runs through families.  Also, people affected by this condition have a low threshold for pain. This means they have a low capability to bear the pain.

Moreover, researchers have not found a direct relation, but they believe genetic mutations in specific genes are the causing factor for this condition. Because these mutated genes make the body send the pain signal to the brain. For example, one recent study published in the Journal of Pain Research found that variations in a gene called GCH1 may increase the risk of fibromyalgia. 

The researchers also said people with fibromyalgia have more variations in the GCH1 gene than people without the condition. 

Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia: What methods do doctors use?

Diagnosing fibromyalgia is a challenging task because there is no certain test that can confirm fibromyalgia.  Because fibromyalgia has similar symptoms to other medical conditions such as lupus, arthritis, and other autoimmune or inflammatory disorders. So, the doctor will work to rule out other possible conditions according to symptoms. Thus, doctors use a combination of methods for diagnosis. Such as patients’ symptoms, the severity of symptoms, physical examination, and medical history.

Here are some common processes involved in the diagnosis,

1. Medical History and Symptom Test

It is the first step in the diagnosis of fibromyalgia. In this process, the doctor will inquire about your medical history (i.e. If you have had any other disease in the past) and symptoms like fatigue, sleep disturbances, etc. The doctor may also inquire about the duration and location of the pain. 

2. Physical Examination

During this process, the doctor will detect tender points by applying gentle pressure to some areas of the patient’s body.

A few years ago, a diagnosis of this condition required tenderness in eleven of eighteen tender points. However recent research found that diagnosis does not solely depend on tender points. Instead, you must be affected with widespread pain for at least 3 months.  This would only work according to certain diagnostic criteria.

Let’s understand what it is.

3. Diagnostic Criteria

Diagnosis of fibromyalgia is based on research by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR). According to it, an individual should meet the widespread pain index of seven or more. It means pain in seven specific areas out of nineteen.

Moreover, a symptom severity score of five or more is necessary to detect the severity of symptoms like fatigue, cognitive difficulties, etc.

Let’s understand in what areas you would have been affected by pain to diagnose fibromyalgia.

It means that you must have pain in these regions to meet the diagnostic criteria. 

These criteria work as a standardized approach to fibromyalgia diagnosis.

4. Additional Test

The doctor may also perform blood tests or imaging tests like X-rays or MRIs to diagnose other medical conditions that have the same symptoms as fibromyalgia.

What are the risk factors?

Even though experts have not found the exact cause of fibromyalgia, some health conditions can increase the risk of developing this condition. Such as,

Conclusion:

Thus, Fibromyalgia is a challenging condition to live with. However, it’s important to remember that there are several ways to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. So, you should consult with a doctor if you face any of the above-mentioned symptoms.

We hope this information helps you or someone you know who is dealing with Fibromyalgia.