Wondering about the early signs of fibromyalgia symptoms? You’re not alone. Whether you’re newly diagnosed or have a sneaking suspicion you might be suffering from this condition, you’ll be anxious to review a checklist to evaluate your health.
If you don’t know much about this disorder, you might be wondering what is fibromyalgia exactly. It’s a chronic condition that experts think has to do with how your brain interprets pain signals. While some people mistakenly believe this disorder is an autoimmune condition, researchers believe it to be a disease that impacts the central nervous system.
Determining whether you have many of the symptoms for this condition can help you decide if you should consult a doctor to see if you have it. If your doctor feels it is a real possibility, they will answer any other questions you have, such as how is fibromyalgia diagnosed and treated.
Fibromyalgia and Related Disorders
Who can get fibromyalgia? It can strike anyone. But there are some other conditions that seem to go hand-in-hand with fibromyalgia. They seem to occur in higher frequency in fibromyalgia patients.
Where does fibromyalgia come from? No one can say for sure yet. But you may have a higher chance to develop fibromyalgia if you have one or more of these other conditions. Here is a list of those issues:
- Autoimmune disorders: How these are connected with this condition isn’t clear. But you may be at increased risk for fibromyalgia if you have inflammatory autoimmune diseases like lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Restless Leg Syndrome: This is when you have a strong desire to kick or move your legs when you are relaxing or trying to rest.
- Anxiety and depression: Is anxiety or depression the result of having a medical condition, or are the disorders linked somehow? Experts don’t know yet.
- Migraines: You might suffer from migraines or tension headaches although researchers don’t know why these conditions appear to have a link.
- Irritable bowel syndrome: A high percentage of people with fibromyalgia syndrome have this issue too. Some estimates say anywhere from 30 to 70 percent.
- Being overweight: Whether being overweight leads to this condition isn’t certain, but doctors do know that people who rarely exercise are at a higher risk of developing it.
Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
How serious is fibromyalgia? It can be life-changing for anyone who gets it. The symptoms of fibromyalgia can be different in men and women though, so let’s take a gender-based look at what you may be experiencing.
Fibromyalgia Symptoms in Women
Fibromyalgia affects women more than it does men -- up to 90 percent of all cases strike women. Why women overwhelmingly suffer the most cases of this disorder is a mystery to doctors.
Women with fibromyalgia struggle with widespread pain -- they may report higher levels of pain because the estrogen coursing through their body can cut down on their pain tolerance. Fatigue is another problem that seems to hit women harder.
Fibromyalgia Symptoms in Men
Men don’t usually have as much pain all over their body as women do with this condition. But they might be more likely to suffer in silence or seek less support than women. That’s partially because fibromyalgia is primarily considered to be a woman’s disease. Men might think no one will believe them, or they might fear being ridiculed.
So while the pain might not be as intense and widespread for them, they could suffer just as much emotionally, or even more so.
Fibromyalgia Symptoms Checklist
When you have this condition, you may experience a different range of symptoms than somebody else with the same ailment will have. Here is a list of common signs that someone with fibromyalgia may have. Remember, you don’t need to have every symptom on this checklist to have this disorder.
- Pain both below and above the waist, affecting both sides.
- Fatigue, which is often severe.
- Memory problems.
- Painful sex for women.
- Tension headaches or migraines.
- Spasms of certain muscles.
- More gas than usual.
- Stiff joints.
- Sore muscles.
- Problems with concentration.
- Changes in the menstrual cycle for women.
- Feeling of pins and needles on skin.
- Feeling extra sensitive to cold temperatures.
- Mood issues.
- Problems sleeping.
Ease the Symptoms
Since there is no cure for this condition currently, the focus of anyone diagnosed with it should be lessening the symptoms so they can live as normal of a life as possible. There is no guarantee that they will be able to do all the things they did before contracting this condition, but things like work, exercise, and hobbies are still a possibility.
Medications may lessen the severity of symptoms, even though you may still have episodes where you experience flare-ups. Lifestyle changes can be tremendously helpful as well. Let’s look at some things you can do on your own to improve your quality of life and cut down on the troublesome symptoms you’re facing.
Make Sleep a Priority
Sleep is critical for all of us, but you are facing extra challenges that make getting a good night’s sleep crucial. Getting adequate rest may improve your mood, as well as the anxiety and depression you’re at risk of developing. It can also help with the concentration and memory problems that go along with this condition.
To get better sleep, you should turn your bedroom into a sanctuary. Invest in a weighted blanket, a fan or other white noise machine, blackout curtains or blinds, and the most comfortable sheets you can work into your budget.
Weighted blankets may help you manage your anxiety better so you can go to sleep faster and stay asleep without waking as much.
Exercise might be one of the best things you can do for yourself, even though it may seem hard or even impossible. If you think you can’t do anything physical, try something small. Walk for five minutes around your block -- it doesn’t matter how fast you go. See how your body responds to the activity.
After a day or two, try to exercise longer than you did before. If you’re feeling good, you might be tempted to increase your exercise time dramatically. But you really should take it slowly and take your cues from how your body feels before tackling more.
Exercise is great for your mood, sleep issues, fatigue, and pain.
If you’re prone to headaches, skip the caffeine and sugar because they can aggravate that symptom. Your best bet is eating sensibly by including fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grains.
You might also want to consider giving up alcohol altogether. It can make mood issues and fatigue even worse.
Cut Back on Stress
Stress is a killer, and the less everyone has, the better. We can’t always avoid it, but when you have fibromyalgia, getting rid of as much chronic stress as possible is a must.
When we’re stressed, we tend to tense up, feeling pain and aches in our muscles. We’re prone to getting more headaches when we’re stressed as well. You’ll be dealing with enough when you’re fighting your condition without adding to it with your stress levels. Don’t create extra pain for yourself by allowing your stress to get out of control.
Put Yourself First
If there was ever a time to baby yourself and make sure you are your number one priority, that time is now. Don’t apologize for doing whatever you have to do to protect your health.
This is the only life you’re going to have -- it’s time to take it seriously and guard it carefully.