About FM Courtesy of FibroAction

About Fibro - A Brief Guide

Fibro is Fibromyalgia Syndrome, also known as FMS or FM. Fibromyalgia is pronounced Fy - bro - my - al - gee - ah. Fibro is a chronic illness characterised by chronic widespread pain, hypersensitivity to pain (and other stimuli), chronic fatigue and sleep disturbances. Fibro is a type of chronic pain condition, but Fibro patients experience a wide range of symptoms that can wax and wane over time.
The name "Fibromyalgia" literally means pain in the muscles and fibres (ligaments) of the body, but it is now recognised that this name does not accurately reflect what is happening with the condition. 'Fibromyalgia Syndrome' was chosen as a name for the condition in 1990 and it was previously known by many names, including Fibrositis, Unspecified Rheumatism, Muscular
Rheumatism and Neurasthenia, all of which names are also now known to not accurately reflect the condition. Some people suggest the condition would better be called Central Sensitisation Syndrome or Pain Amplification Syndrome. Fibro is a real condition, with an increasing body of evidence to show that it is a Central Nervous System related disorder.

Who Is Affected? 
Fibro can affect anyone. Although it is commonly thought that 80-90% of Fibro sufferers are women, this figure may be an overestimate and men do get it too. And although a large proportion of Fibro sufferers are aged 35-60, anyone from children to the elderly can develop the condition.

What Are The Symptoms?
The possible symptoms of Fibro are very wide and varied and no two sufferers will have exactly the same problems. However, many have a majority of the common symptoms. Chronic widespread pain is usually the primary symptom of Fibro. This can be aches, as if you have the flu or have run a long race; it can feel like joint pain, as if you have arthritis; it can be burning pain, feeling like someone is pouring acid through your body; or it can be shooting pain, as if you are being stabbed with large needles. Fibro patients are also hypersensitive to pain: The medical terms for this are hyperalgesia (feeling more pain from a slight pain stimulus) and allodynia (feeling pain from a stimulus that should not be painful at all).

Chronic fatigue is common with Fibro and this is often linked with the non-restorative sleep that is typical of Fibro.
Other common symptoms are:-

  • Cognitive dysfunction is a common problem with Fibro and is nicknamed "Fibro-fog"
  • Sensitivities or intolerances to many things, from foods to chemicals      
  • Abnormal responses to exercise are often a problem with Fibro   
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease and Irritable Bladder 
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Restless Leg Syndrome

What Causes Fibro?
The root cause of Fibro is as yet unknown, but research continues to explain the mechanisms behind what happens with Fibro.
For some people, the onset of Fibro is slow or happens in early childhood, but for many people Fibro is triggered by a known event or series of events, such as an illness or injury. The possible genetic susceptibility could help to explain why these traumatic events lead to Fibro in some people and not others.

How Is Fibro Diagnosed?
There is currently no definitive test for Fibro. In making the diagnosis, the physician will first rule out other conditions that might be causing some of the symptoms. This is done primarily through blood tests and physical exams. When all possible
other causes of the symptoms have been ruled out (or taken into account), then the physician will first look at the patient’s symptoms and symptom history to see if they tie in with a Fibro diagnosis.

The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) published a set of criteria for the diagnosis of Fibro in 199032. For this, patients need to have had pain in all four quadrants of the body (i.e. on both the left and right sides and above and below the waist) for at least 3 months. For the ACR criteria, patients also need to have 11 out of 18 specifically chosen tender points. The tender points are spots on the body where everyone is more sensitive and so where it is easiest to test for the hypersensitivity to pain that characterises Fibro.

How Is Fibro Treated?
Fibro is a complex condition with a number of other conditions that can occur as symptoms, making it very complicated to treat. Exactly what works for one person may not be the best treatment for another. The most effective treatment for Fibro is often through a multidisciplinary approach, using medications, complementary and supportive therapies, and lifestyle adaptations.

What Is The Prognosis?
The prognosis for people with Fibro today is better than ever. With effective treatment, patients with Fibro can improve, sometimes significantly. Even those patients who have multiple health conditions can find that effective treatment of their Fibro makes a huge difference to their lives. Getting Fibro under some kind of control can take a lot of work and some time, but with a good healthcare team, a supportive network of family and/or friends and a positive, proactive attitude, it is possible.

Courtesy of FibroAction   

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