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Arthritis Today

What is Fibromyalgia?

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Fibromyalgia is a condition associated with widespread chronic pain, fatigue, memory problems and mood changes. Fibromyalgia is not a single disease, but a constellation of symptoms that can be managed. It is not life threatening and does not lead to muscle or joint damage.

Researchers suspect that different factors, alone or in combination, may contribute to the development of the disease. An infectious illness, physical trauma, emotional trauma or hormonal changes may trigger the development of generalized pain, fatigue and sleep disturbances that characterize the condition.

Who’s Affected?

Fibromyalgia affects more than 3.7 million Americans, the majority of whom are women between the ages of 40 and 75, but it also affects men, young women and children. People with other rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, are at greater risk for fibromyalgia. For example, about 20 to 30 percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis also develop fibromyalgia, although no one knows why. Women who are overweight or inactive have an increased risk of developing fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia sometimes occurs in more than one member of the same family, but doctors have not verified a hereditary link or common genetic type. Several studies have, however, found a possible link between genetic markers called human leukocyte antigens, or HLAs, and fibromyalgia. This suggests that a gene that predisposes a person to develop fibromyalgia may exist.

Although fibromyalgia is more common in adults, children (especially adolescent females) may be diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

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