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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 and anti-CCP antibodies. These blood tests together can help diagnose between 50% and 80% of patients 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 usually 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 these fibromyalgia criteria:

  • Pain has been widespread in all four quadrants of your body
  • Pain has been present for a minimum of three months
  • There is no other disease that would be causing these symptoms


What Other Problems Will Be Assessed in Diagnosing Fibromyalgia?

To be thorough in making a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, your doctor will do at least the following six things:

  1. Check for widespread pain
  2. Evaluate trigger points
  3. Ask about fatigue
  4. Inquire about sleep disturbances
  5. Evaluate your level of stress
  6. 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 may include 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.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 04, 2014
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