What are the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?
The challenge with this disease is that there are no obvious outward signs. The symptoms may vary from person to person and also day to day. The most prominent symptoms are Widespread pain, fatigue and sleep disturbance. These symptoms I think are the most troubling to patients because it means their quality of life is affected from work, home and relationships with friends and family as they are unable
to function “normally” due to fatigue and joint pain. A lot of patients are often frustrated as their close friends and family don’t understand what is going on, also they have visited many doctors who also aren’t sure what is going on. Actually, some of my patients have had incidences where people (close friends, family and even medical personnel) thought they were either exaggerating their symptoms or
worse they are making up symptoms. This leads to subsequent depression, anxiety disorders that can complicate the treatment as many people are not open to accept the idea, they need help from the counsellors and psychiatrist. They also can’t seem to think clearly or remember things properly (sometimes this is called ‘fibrofog’ or ‘brainfog’).
Less frequent symptoms of fibromyalgia include symptoms of poor circulation – tingling, numbness or swelling of the hands and feet: irritability or feeling miserable, irritable or uncomfortable bowels (diarrhoea or constipation and abdominal pain) sometimes separately diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), headaches and feeling an urgent need to urinate especially at night
When should one think of fibromyalgia?
Usually my index of suspicion is raised when a patient complains of widespread pain lasting three months or more associated with fatigue and/or waking up feeling unrefreshed and having problems with thought processes like memory and understanding (cognitive symptoms). Other give a way are the lack of positivity in the routine tests we do for a patient presenting with pain. We also suspect fibromyalgia in a patient who has a long-term medical condition that has mental and physical pain presenting with pain for example- Diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Behcet’s, lupus, low back pain that doesn’t seem to be improving despite the fact the disease is under control.