Because of a multifaceted treatment approach that involves medications and lifestyle strategies, the prognosis for people with fibromyalgia is better than ever before. But first, a doctor needs to make an accurate diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Are you wondering how that's done?
Unfortunately, fibromyalgia is regularly misunderstood. Despite all the latest information about fibromyalgia with its severe muscle pain, unrelenting fatigue and sleep problems, and feelings of anxiety and depression, doctors are still misdiagnosing this common pain disorder. As a result, some patients are getting a diagnosis for the wrong condition -- for example, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, or some other pain problem.
When you have fibromyalgia, visits to the doctor can be confusing and frustrating as you search for answers and treatment for the many different fibromyalgia symptoms you may have. You may have many different symptoms and lots of questions. It can be hard to know how to address all your concerns in a short office visit -- or what your doctor needs to know to best treat your condition.
For help with these issues, we turned to Scott Zashin, FACP, FACR, clinical associate professor of medicine at...
Fibromyalgia is a syndrome with multiple symptoms that commonly occur together, including widespread pain, decreased pain threshold or tender points, incapacitating fatigue, and anxiety or depression.
Why Is Diagnosing Fibromyalgia Difficult?
On average, it takes five years for a person with fibromyalgia to get an accurate diagnosis. Some people go from doctor to doctor without receiving a medical diagnosis for their fibromyalgia symptoms. Many wonder if their painful symptoms are simply imagined.
There are no scientific measures, such as laboratory tests or X-rays, that "prove" you have fibromyalgia. In the past, millions of fibromyalgia patients were misdiagnosed as having depression, inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid or lupus, chronic myofascial pain, or chronic fatigue syndrome. There are, of course, a few similarities between fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome and between fibromyalgia and arthritis. But fibromyalgia is different. It is a distinct condition that needs an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
What Tests Are Used to Diagnose Fibromyalgia?
Most laboratory tests are not very useful by themselves for diagnosing fibromyalgia. Your doctor will come to a diagnosis after doing a physical exam and discussing your symptoms with you. The reason for this is that a diagnosis to large extent is based on the way you feel. For instance, even though your doctor may notice tender points during the physical exam, you still need to tell him or her about the pain you feel in those areas.
Your doctor will use a few lab tests to make sure you don't have a more serious medical condition. These tests can probably be done during one visit to a lab.
What Specific Blood Tests Will my Doctor Order?
Among the specific blood tests that your doctor may order is a complete blood count (CBC). This test measures the hemoglobin, red cells, white cells, and platelets. It can also find many common blood disorders -- such as anemia - that can cause fatigue.
Your doctor may ask for tests -- including kidney and liver tests -- that check blood chemistries. Your doctor will probably want to know the level of cholesterol and other fats in your blood, calcium levels, and more. In addition, your doctor may run thyroid tests to see if your thyroid is overactive or underactive.