Fibromyositis, also known as fibromyalgia, is a common illness that affects approximately 2% of the United States population and is characterized by widespread pain in the muscles and soft tissues. The illness causes patients to experience multiple tender points, which are locations on the body where only a slight amount of pressure is required to cause pain. This pain often closely resembles the pain of other diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Patients with fibromyositis, however, do not exhibit any of the other features of the rheumatoid arthritis, such as swelling and deformity of the joints. Most patients who live with this condition also consider chronic fatigue to be a defining symptom.
Other fibromyositis symptoms may include sleep difficulties, cognitive problems, memory lapses, and exercise intolerance. It is difficult to say whether these symptoms occur concurrently with the widespread pain of the illness, or if they are a result of it. Headaches, dizziness, and sensitivity to sensory stimuli such as noise, odor, and light are also frequently reported symptoms of the illness.
In order for a patient to be diagnosed with this condition, he or she must have a history of three or more months of widespread pain. The patient must also exhibit pain or tenderness in 11 of 18 tender-point sites. These sites are located at special points along the soft tissues and muscles of the body. Physicians will often order extensive blood and imaging tests to rule out other causes of the patient's symptoms before making the diagnosis of fibromyositis, as there is no diagnostic test specifically for the illness itself.
Fibomyositis treatment consists primarily of medications to manage pain. These may include over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen, or stronger prescription pain killers. Treatment is also aimed at improving sleep for patients with the illness. Many physicians prescribe the antidepressant amitriptyline to help promote restful sleep. Other antidepressants, as well as certain anti-seizure medications, may also be helpful in treating the illness.
Researchers do no know for certain what causes fibromyositis, but have been able to identify several risk factors that predispose a patient to the illness. Women in their twenties and thirties are at the greatest risk of being diagnosed. Those with a family history of the illness or those who suffer from sleep disturbances are also prone to developing it. Having another rheumatic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, increases a patient's risk of also being diagnosed with fibromyositis.