Fibromyalgia Diagnosis and Misdiagnosis
Will my Doctor Test for Inflammatory Arthritis?
Doctors who diagnose fibromyalgia usually test the red blood cell sedimentation rate. This test provides a rough index of inflammation in the body. In rheumatoid and other similar types of arthritis, this test is abnormal. It can also be abnormal with some infections. In cases of osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia, however, it is usually normal.
Your doctor might test for rheumatoid factor. This blood test measures an abnormal protein in the blood and is positive for 70% to 80% percent of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. But this blood test can also be positive in healthy individuals and is sometimes negative in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Your doctor may also test for anti-nuclear antibody (ANA). Like rheumatoid factor, ANA is an abnormal antibody in the blood. It is commonly found with systemic lupus. Lupus is more common in women, especially younger women, and can cause pain and fatigue. Lupus may also cause internal organ problems, such as kidney disease, heart disease, or problems in the brain.
Can X-rays Show Problems With Fibromyalgia?
With fibromyalgia, X-rays of painful areas will show no abnormality. If you have another problem, such as arthritis, then there may be some abnormalities on the X-rays to indicate what type of arthritis you have. Keep in mind that any X-ray changes are not due to fibromyalgia.
Will my Doctor Know Which Tests Might Rule out Serious Problems?
Talk openly with your doctor in order to understand the overall results of the diagnostic process. Ask your doctor to explain the findings from the physical exam, the lab testing, and the X-rays. Doing so will help you understand your fibromyalgia. Be sure to ask questions about fibromyalgia, its symptoms, and your treatment options.
What Are the Diagnostic Guidelines for Fibromyalgia?
After ruling out another serious medical problem, your doctor will consider whether or not your condition meets two fibromyalgia criteria:
- Has there been widespread pain in all four quadrants of your body for a minimum of three months?
- Do you have tenderness or pain in at least 11 of 18 specific tender points when pressure is applied?
What Other Problems Will Be Assessed in Diagnosing Fibromyalgia?
To be thorough in making a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, your doctor will do the following six things:
- check for widespread pain
- evaluate trigger points
- ask about fatigue
- inquire about sleep disturbances
- evaluate your level of stress
- test for depression
What Happens if I'm Diagnosed With Fibromyalgia?
If you are diagnosed with fibromyalgia, your doctor will discuss a multifaceted treatment program with you. That program includes medications, exercise, stress reduction, sleep strategies, and more. Staying on this program will help ease your fibromyalgia symptoms so you can reclaim an active life and do the things you want to do.