Fibromyalgia is a neurological condition that causes persistent and widespread pain throughout the body, as well as sleep disturbances, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. Many people with fibromyalgia also experience irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, and increased sensitivity to pain.

Scientists are not sure exactly what causes fibromyalgia, but it is thought to be related to changes in the brain. Fibromyalgia patients may have abnormally high levels of the chemicals in the brain that signal pain. Receptors for these chemicals may also become hypersensitive, causing them to overreact to pain signals. Because of this, fibromyalgia is sometimes described as central pain amplification disorder.

People with autoimmune diseases such as scleroderma are more likely to have fibromyalgia.

Diagnosis

Fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose. There are currently no laboratory tests that can confirm a diagnosis, but if a patient has widespread pain for more than three months, doctors may perform blood tests that can help them rule out other conditions or to diagnose scleroderma as a potential cause of fibromyalgia.

Treatment

There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, but a variety of treatments can ease symptoms of the condition. Usually, a combination of different therapies is used to provide the best relief.

Anti-depressants are often used because these medications modulate the levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, which are involved in pain signaling. Lyrica (pregabalin) and Neurontin (gabapentin), medications that affect the activity of nerve cells, may also be used to treat fibromyalgia. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen may also be helpful.

Non-pharmaceutical treatments are often very effective in alleviating fibromyalgia symptoms. In fact, physical exercise, especially aerobic exercise, is considered the most effective treatment for fibromyalgia. Non-aerobic exercises such as yoga and tai chi may also be helpful. Low-impact exercises are not harmful to people with fibromyalgia, and exercise may also help ease joint stiffness due to scleroderma.

Psychological approaches can also be very helpful for symptom management. Cognitive behavioral therapy may help patients learn skills to help lessen pain. In addition, mindfulness meditation to reduce stress can significantly improve symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Prognosis

Fibromyalgia symptoms negatively affect patients’ quality of life, but the condition is not considered life-threatening. Living with fibromyalgia is challenging, however, even more so when coupled with the challenges of scleroderma. Self-care, such as reducing stress, getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet, is very important in managing fibromyalgia.

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Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.