What are the symptoms?

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Fibromyalgia is often described as an unseen disability or health condition as there are no visible traits of the disorder. It is more than likely that you will have come across someone living with the condition without being aware of it.

Each person living with fibromyalgia will have a unique combination of symptoms that affect them personally. However, some of the common symptoms that have been identified are as follows:

  • chronic and widespread pain; this pain is usually from head to toe, an aching feeling that many describe as like the aches and pains you may feel when you have the flu. Acute pain, or pain that is sharp or severe can also manifest itself in parts of the body that may feel particularly sore or tender. Chronic, or long-term pain is usually considered to be pain that lasts more than 3 months;
  • fatigue; the fatigue experienced by people living with fibromyalgia is more than a feeling of being tired. It refers to a deep physical, emotional and mental exhaustion which can affect the individual’s ability to think clearly or to remember things properly. This is often referred to as “fibrofog” or “brainfog”;
  • sleep disturbance; in addition to ongoing fatigue people with fibromyalgia will often experience disturbances in sleep. This can be for a variety of reasons including the effects of medication, pain or anxiety;
  • stiffness; often worse in the mornings and can be made worse by extremes in temperature, for example, in the winter when it is cooler many people with a condition find that their muscles feel tighter than in the hotter summer months;
  • poor mental health, stress, anxiety or depression; a deterioration in mental well-being is not uncommon amongst people living with fibromyalgia. In addition to having to deal with physical symptoms that need to be managed, a person living with fibromyalgia also has to come to terms with the realisation that they may not be able to live the life that they once did previously. For example, they may have to give up work or reconsider starting a family. This may involve a period of grieving and reflection for the individual.

In addition to the main symptoms described above many people also experience the following health problems:

• migraines/headaches
• irritable bowels (Irritable Bowel Syndrome IBS)
• irritable bladder, urgent need to urinate
• irritability/mood swings
• poor circulation
• joint pain
• restless leg syndrome

Speak to your healthcare provider if you experience any of the symptoms described above.

Back to how is it diagnosed?

What are the causes?