Experts say that fibromyalgia is under diagnosed. It can be difficult to diagnose because many of its symptoms are the same as those of other conditions, such as systemic exertion intolerance disease (formerly called chronic fatigue syndrome), underactive thyroid, Lyme disease, lupus, idiopathic environmental intolerance (formerly known as multiple chemical sensitivity). Fibromyalgia is often diagnosed after other possible causes have been ruled out.
Usually, it's easy to find out what's making kids sick. Common childhood conditions like strep throat and ear infections are pretty simple to diagnose with a throat swab or doctor's exam.
Yet when kids complain of vague symptoms, like fatigue, achiness, and difficulty sleeping, they could be experiencing any one of a number of common illnesses. One condition that's easy to overlook in children and teens is fibromyalgia, which causes pain in the muscles and soft tissues surrounding the joints.
To diagnose fibromyalgia, your doctor may do a blood test. This test identifies markers produced by immune system blood cells in people with fibromyalgia. It can also help distinguish fibromyalgia from other conditions that can have similar symptoms. He will also take a thorough history and do physical and neurological exams. The doctor will also determine whether you have any tender points, a key distinguishing symptom of fibromyalgia.
Because of the difficulty in diagnosing fibromyalgia, it is best to see a doctor who is knowledgeable about the condition, such as a rheumatologist. Diagnosis is important because the earlier fibromyalgia is detected, the sooner you can make lifestyle changes to help reduce the symptoms.
SOURCES: National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Frissora C. Current Gastroenterol Reports, August 2005. Offenbaecher M. CNS Spectrum, April 2005. Patten S. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, March 2005. Nampiaparampil D. American Journal of Managed Care, November 2004. UpToDate: "Fibromyalgia (Beyond the Basics)."