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The Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia (FM) is diagnosed on the basis of the symptoms the patient is suffering as opposed to using such objective markers such as x-rays, biopsies, or blood tests as there are currently no laboratory tests for diagnosing fibromyalgia.
The chronic symptoms of fibromyalgia may be less noticeable when an individual with fibromyalgia is busy with their daily activities and/or exercise programs.
No matter what activities of which the fibromyalgia sufferer is preoccupied, the pain is oftentimes unavoidable and of varying degrees.
In many cases, FM can seem to be potentially a rheumatic disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. However, the difference between these disorders and fibromyalgia has to do with inflammation of the joints as FM does not cause any type of inflammation in the joints.
Doctors confirming a diagnosis of fibromyalgia usually focus on the ‘tender’ or ‘featured’ areas normally affected by the fibromyalgia condition. Fibromyalgia symptoms can include:
Fibromyalgia can cause several variations of painfulness throughout ‘tender’ or pressure-sensitive areas throughout the body. Some of the areas most often affected by fibromyalgia are the neck region to the shoulders and upper chest area, the hands, middle-arm and elbow regions, the pelvic and hip regions in front as well as behind, and the knee areas.
The pains can vary from shooting and/or stabbing pains to muscle aches and throbbing pains. Other effects of fibromyalgia can include numbness, tingling, as well as burning, sensations. The more intense pain and stiffness experienced by fibromyalgia patients has been reported as being worst in the morning or following sleep (see ‘Alpha sleep characteristics in fibromyalgia’). There are many contributors to pain caused by fibromyalgia such as stress, anxiety, cold and humid weather, too much physical exertion, lack of sleep, as well as too much inactivity.
The fibromyalgia condition can affect more than just ‘tender’ points on the body. Those with fibromyalgia can oftentimes experience pain to the point of physical and mental exhaustion making it very hard to even concentrate on a simple task. The effects of FM can also greatly affect the individual’s sleep patterns through constant discomfort and awakening throughout the night. As a result of the constant tossing and turning through the night caused by the effects of pressure and fibromyalgia, the individual will lack the deep and restorative effects of proper sleep and potentially begin to develop certain sleep disorders. These sleep disorders can potentially cause issues to arise in everyday life involving family, friends and work.
There are several types of sleep disorders that can be associated with fibromyalgia. Some of the most common can include:
The alpha-EEG sleep anomaly is considered as a cause of arousal internally, in the form of sudden bursts of brain activity as if the individual was still awake, which can cause interference of an individual’s normal restorative sleep patterns. Many individuals who experience alpha-EEG sleep anomaly do not even awaken from the surges of brain activity. It has also been found that alpha EEG sleep anomaly is a condition which is consistent with individuals who suffer from fibromyalgia. Modern research has shown that alpha-EEG sleep anomaly not only shows evidence of the induced effects of fibromyalgia in those already affected by fibromyalgia during sleep, but also in many healthy subjects experiencing the alpha-EEG sleep anomaly. Many of the most problematic effects were considered as those experienced during post-sleep or in the morning in the form of pain, discomfort and stiffness.
Bruxism, also known as sleep bruxism, is the grinding of ones teeth, usually during sleep. Bruxism is a common symptom of stress, as well as those experienced with fibromyalgia. This grinding by the individual can cause wear on the teeth through flattening on the front as well as on the top of the tooth. Hollowing out, as well as an appearance of receding gum lines and chipping and micro-abrasion on the softer enamels can appear due to the clenching and grinding. Bruxism usually causes the grinder to produce loud gnashing sounds as well as some that are not as distinct and hardly audible by another person. Usually a dentist will recommend a night-guard device to be used in order to help alleviate most of the effects of bruxism.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
Restless legs syndrome is a neurological condition where an individual with RLS has an irresistible urge to move to move their legs due to uncomfortable sensations experienced. The symptoms of restless leg syndrome occur mostly during longer periods of rest, usually while the person is sleeping. For individuals who experience RLS, the longer the period of rest, the more intense the symptoms of restless leg syndrome become. Since restless legs syndrome usually occurs while RLS sufferers are in bed, this can cause nightly losses of good rest as a result of the need to move around and induce motor activity where relief from RLS is experienced. Many individuals who experience restless leg syndrome also experience periodic limb movements of sleep, or PLMS, where the person experiences periodic limb movements lasting up to 10 seconds every 20-30 seconds spontaneously throughout the night. For more information, please visit The RLS Foundation.
A majority of individuals with fibromyalgia also experience symptoms of sleep apnea where breathing is stopped either through obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea or mixed. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea where the air passage is obstructed either because of head position, body elements such as polyps in the nasal passages, uvula, relaxation of muscles, and more. Central has to do with the relationship between the human brain and the central nervous system where the brain’s signals are being interfered and therefore not signaling the central nervous system to continue to breathe properly. Some serious effects as a result of untreated sleep apnea include high blood pressure, loss of sex drive and even heart failure.
For more information on sleep apnea and other sleep related issues, please visit the MFN Sleep Center.
Additional symptoms may include: Irritable bowel and bladder, headaches and migraines, restless legs syndrome, impaired memory and concentration, skin sensitivities and rashes, dry eyes and mouth, anxiety, depression, ringing in the ears, dizziness, vision problems, Reynaud’s Syndrome, neurological symptoms, and impaired coordination.