Fibromyalgia is a common ‘rheumatic’ disorder – where complaints arise from muscles, tendons and ligaments rather than the joints.

No long term damage is sustained, but symptoms may continue for months or even years.

What causes fibromyalgia?

People can develop fibromyalgia if their sleep is disturbed repeatedly. Therefore anything that causes sleep problems may eventually lead to it, eg people with arthritis may develop fibromyalgia because the pain and stress of that original condition may have disturbed their sleep pattern (this is called secondary fibromyalgia).

With Fibromyalgia, once a sleep disturbance ensues this can result in a viscous cycle of pain and distress. 3% of the population is affected with 10 times more women than men suffering.

Symptoms of fibromyalgia

The main characteristics of fibromyalgia are aching in the body with sore points in at least eight tender areas of the body such as on the outer side of the elbows, top of the shoulders, upper part of the front of the chest, inner side of the knees, etc.

Patients may be tired, lack stamina. Other symptoms include a sensation of poor circulation or an apparent feeling of swelling of the hands and feet, although this does not actually happen. Tingling and numbness in the fingers and toes with a feeling of restlessness in the legs, particularly at night, can also occur.

Patients often feel irritable, down or even weepy. They may suffer from headaches, poor concentration or lack of memory, irritable bowel syndrome, women can also suffer painful periods.

How can fibromyalgia be diagnosed?

There’s no single test, such as a blood test or X-rays, to help in the diagnosis.

The doctor may suspect the condition from the symptoms in the absence of any structural damage, inflammation or swelling of the joints.

The presence of sore areas on the body along with a history of undue tiredness and sleep disturbance can help the doctor to make the diagnosis.