Experts say that fibromyalgia is underdiagnosed. It can be difficult to diagnose because many of its symptoms are the same as those of other conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, underactive thyroid, Lyme disease, lupus, and multiple chemical sensitivity. Fibromyalgia is usually diagnosed after other possible causes have been ruled out.
Fibromyalgia is the most common musculoskeletal condition after osteoarthritis. Still, it is often misdiagnosed and misunderstood. Its characteristics include widespread muscle and joint pain and fatigue, as well as other symptoms. Fibromyalgia can lead to depression and social isolation.
This overview of fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) covers symptoms, diagnosis, and both standard and alternative treatments.
To diagnose fibromyalgia, your doctor will take a thorough history and do physical and neurological exams. The doctor will also determine whether you have any tender points, the key distinguishing symptom of fibromyalgia. Some doctors use the American College of Rheumatology guidelines that require a minimum of 11 out of 18 tender points for a fibromyalgia diagnosis. Others say that fewer than 11 tender points may indicate fibromyalgia, particularly if you also have severe fatigue and widespread pain that has lasted more than three months.
If your doctor suspects you may have fibromyalgia, there is a blood test to help diagnose the condition. The test -- called FM/a -- identifies markers produced by immune system blood cells in people with fibromyalgia. Because the test is new, insurance may not cover it. Ask your doctor if the FM/a test is right for you. He or she may order laboratory tests to rule out other conditions.
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 reduce the symptoms.
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