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Fibromyalgia is one of the many syndromes with unknown causes and several features in common with other disorders. It is about nine times more common in women than in men, and may occur alone or in association with other diseases such as hypothyroidism, certain viral infections, Lyme disease, surgery, stress, and Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Many of its symptoms are quite similar to chronic fatigue syndrome, and autoimmune disorders like Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and Sjögren's Syndrome (Sicca Syndrome). Some disorders involving the musculoskeletal system like Polymyalgia rheumatica and Polymyositis have features in common with fibromyalgia.

Given these facts, it is not easy to judge whether a person actually has this disorder or some other problem. Although diagnostic criteria exist, some people may not fit into all of these. Further adding to the confusion is the fact that the laboratory values for various tests done on people with fibromyalgia turn out to show no abnormalities at all. The musculoskeletal system and the nervous system also show no abnormalities.

Here are the possible symptoms...

Probable Symptoms

Pain and Tenderness: This may be generalized, or more often, at specific points all over the body. They are called tender points, and are present in the neck, shoulders, buttocks, knees, lower back, chest and thighs. Other tender points may also be present. The patient needs to experience tenderness and pain in at least 11 out of 18 points that have been defined, for diagnosing fibromyalgia. When pressure is applied on these points, patients experience severe pain.

Disturbed Sleep: People suffering from fibromyalgia have trouble falling asleep and even when they do sleep, and they wake up feeling tired and unrefreshed. Some studies have shown that in these individuals, the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) phase of sleep is disturbed.

Fatigue: Sufferers also feel tired most of the time. Such exhaustion makes it difficult for them to work in the same way as normal people.

Stiffness: Feeling stiffness in the muscles and joints, especially after waking up from sleep, is common among people with this disorder. The stiffness is aggravated in the cold and damp weather, and gets better when the weather becomes warmer.

Paresthesia: The extremities (hands and feet) feel numb, accompanied with tingling.

Headaches: Many people experience tension headaches emanating from contractions of the muscles of the neck and shoulder. Migraine headaches are also experienced by some people.

Cognitive Impairment: Fibromyalgia affects the nervous system in many ways that are not fully understood. Some of the features that individuals with this disorder experience are poor short-term memory, difficulty in concentrating on a particular task, slower overall functioning, forgetfulness, difficulty with retrieval of words, and confusion. The term 'fibro fog' is often used for this cluster of symptoms.

Depression and Anxiety: People with fibromyalgia often suffer from anxiety and depression. However, it is not clearly known whether the depression is due to suffering from this condition or due to neurological disturbances.

Sicca Syndrome: This is a condition that many patients suffering from fibromyalgia have. It is characterized by dry eyes and a dry mouth.

Many sufferers have IBS as well as impaired bladder functioning. People with fibromyalgia are often intolerant to both heat and cold. Their body temperature fluctuates too, and is usually a bit lower than the normal body temperature.

Although no single drug can effectively treat fibromyalgia, a number of them can be used to manage some of the symptoms, so that a person is able to lead a normal life. This condition is chronic, but not progressive, therefore it can be successfully managed.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.