What Fibromyalgia Is



Introduction- Describes what fibromyalgia is, gives a brief synopsis about the disorder and shows some history of the disorder. Also discusses the affects of fibromyalgia on women and men.

Methods- Discusses how information throughout the report was obtained from resources such as Wikipedia, Google, PubMed, and About.com.

Results- Fibromyalgia is a wide-spread chronic muscular pain. The disorder is still untreated, doctors are still unable to diagnose it, and the cause of the disorder is still unknown. Affects women more than men.

Discussion- Since the cause of the diagnosis is yet unknown, the first step to properly treat the disorder would be to find the cause which would ultimately lead to an effective treatment for patients suffering from fibromyalgia.


The purpose of this report is to show how fibromyalgia affects women and men. Fibromyalgia, often abbreviated as FM, is a chronic medical disorder that causes widespread pain, fatigue, increased pain in reaction to pressure, muscle spasms, weakness in limbs, joint stiffness, bowel disturbance and chronic sleep disturbances among many other symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms of fibromyalgia may overlap with the symptoms of some other conditions, this makes it harder for healthcare professionals to properly and effectively diagnose this disorder. Although the term “fibromyalgia” was not claimed until 1976, this mysterious illness has been studied since the 1800's and has been identified by a variety of names, including hysterical paroxysm, muscular rheumatism and fibrositis. The condition was coined "fibromyalgia" for the name represented the main symptom behind it; Fibro - meaning fibrous tissue, my - meaning muscle, and algia - meaning pain.


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The cause of this disorder is currently unknown though many hypotheses have been developed for it. Some of the more dominant theories say that fibromyalgia could be a genetic disorder, could be caused by high stress-levels, hypodopaminergia, abnormal serotonin metabolism, deficient growth hormone secretion, and some others contribute it to psychological factors.


There are a numerous amount of effects that this disorder presents in the human body, some of which include sleep disturbances, poly-model sensitivity, neuroendocrine disruption, sympathetic hyperactivity, and cerebrospinal fluid abnormalities.


The difficulty with diagnosing fibromyalgia lies in the fact that, in most cases, laboratory testing appears normal and that many of the symptoms mimic those of other disorders. A definite diagnosis of fibromyalgia syndrome should only be made when no other medical disease can explain the symptoms. And as such, fibromyalgia is a diagnosis of exclusion. Currently there are no diagnostic or lab tests, such as x-rays or blood tests, to definitely detect fibromyalgia but healthcares professionals often use the guidelines set by the American College of Rheumatology which states that a person may have fibromyalgia is he/she has had both:

  1. Chronic widespread pain that affects the right and left sides of the body, above and below the waist.
  2. And feels pain in at least 11 of 18 possible tender points when light pressure is applied. See Figure 1.


There is no known cure or universally accepted treatment for fibromyalgia and as such treatment is typically aimed at symptom management. Developments in the understanding behind the disorder have led to improvements in treatment, which include prescription medication, behavioral intervention, exercise, and alternative and complementary medicine. Indeed, integrated treatment plans that incorporate medication, patient education, aerobic exercise and cognitive-behavioral therapy have been shown to be effective in alleviating pain and other fibromyalgia-related symptoms.


Fibromyalgia is seen in about 2% of the general population and affects more females than males, with a ratio of 9:1 by ACR criteria. It is most commonly diagnosed in individuals between the ages of 20 and 50, though onset can occur in childhood.

How Fibromyalgia Affects Women

Fibromyalgia may affect as much as 3-6 percent of the U.S. population. Fibromyalgia affects three to six million Americans, 85 to 90% of whom are women. Experts are unsure as to why FMS affects more women than it does men. Although there are various theories regarding this subject, there is no concrete evidence to support and define one. In addition, a recent study found that African-American women are more likely to suffer from fibromyalgia than their Caucasian counterparts. It is not yet understood why this is the case. Furthermore, while African-American women experience more severe widespread pain, Caucasian women experience a significantly increased level of pain. Fibromyalgia and specifically, fibromyalgia symptoms, can have a major impact on a woman's health. In fact, fibromyalgia affects more women than men. The effects of fibromyalgia syndrome on women's health can be quite serious, as they can affect their reproductive health, including PMS and menopause, as well as their ability to achieve pregnancy.

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There are a number of different effects that fibromyalgia can have on a woman's health:

Reproductive Health

Studies have identified a link between fibromyalgia and a woman's reproductive health. In fact, women with fibromyalgia syndrome are more likely to have reproductive health-related diagnoses. For example, there is a higher incidence of dysmenorrhea and breast cysts among women who have FMS. In addition, fibromyalgia can also impact a women's sexuality, including her libido.


Women with fibromyalgia also have more severe pregnancy symptoms. A study found that pregnant women who had fibromyalgia experienced greater stiffness, pain and fatigue in comparison to pregnant women who did not have fibromyalgia syndrome. However, oftentimes these symptoms are misdiagnosed as normal pregnancy symptoms.


There is also a link between fibromyalgia syndrome and the severity of a woman's premenstrual syndrome symptoms. Women with fibromyalgia have been found to have more serious PMS symptoms, including more severe headaches, insomnia, back pain and abdominal cramping.

Women with fibromyalgia also experience greater mental confusion and emotional upset during their menstrual cycle compared with women who do not have FMS.


The majority of women who have fibromyalgia syndrome are diagnosed between 40 and 55 years of age, which coincides with the average onset of menopause. Studies have shown that the relationship between fibromyalgia and menopause may be due to decreased levels of estrogen that occur during menopause. Decreased levels of cortisol may also be a contributing factor. In addition, women in the post-menopausal stage may have more severe FMS-related symptoms compared with those with fibromyalgia who have not gone through menopause. Women in the post-menopausal stage produce 40% less estrogen compared with women who are pre-menopausal. Decreased estrogen levels are linked to common menopause symptoms such as depression, anxiety and sleep disorders, which are also common fibromyalgia symptoms.

Several studies indicate that women who have a family member with fibromyalgia are more likely to have fibromyalgia themselves, this helps enforce the ‘genetic disorder' theory. Also people with certain rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (commonly called lupus), or ankylosing spondylitis (spinal arthritis) may be more likely to have fibromyalgia, too.

How Fibromyalgia Affects Men

Recent research suggests that 1 in 8 fibromyalgia patients is male. However, it is difficult to know if this number is truly an accurate reflection of the real number of male sufferers of the disorder. Because it is so often thought of as a woman's illness, many men suffering from fibromyalgia actually don't get diagnosed with the syndrome. As a result, a large number of male sufferers may go unreported. It is thought that the number of men suffering from fibromyalgia could in fact, be closer to 30%.

Differences in Men and Women Fibromyalgia Sufferers

Though many men do suffer from fibromyalgia syndrome, the experience of men with the illness is very different from that of its female sufferers. There are actually a number of differences in male fibromyalgia symptoms, treatment, and testing.


Symptoms of fibromyalgia are widespread, and vary from person to person. Some sufferers are more affected by widespread pain, while others find that persistent fatigue is the worst symptom. Symptoms in men usually tend to be quite different when compare to the symptoms suffered by women. Most research illustrates that men actually experience milder symptoms than women, and also experience less such as tender points, fatigue, morning stiffness, and IBS.

Male symptoms also tend to last for shorter periods of time and occur less often than those appearing in female patients. However, a recent study shows that male symptoms may actually be more severe than those experienced by women. Under-reporting or misreporting of symptoms may affect the general understanding of fibromyalgia symptoms in men.


Diagnosis of fibromyalgia syndrome also tends to be different in male sufferers. Male sufferers are often reluctant to admit to severe pain or discomfort, and as a result, may report milder symptoms then they actually have. This can make it difficult for your health care provider to accurately diagnose your fibromyalgia. Some health care providers are also convinced that fibromyalgia affects only women, refusing to diagnose men who display symptoms of the disorder, with fibromyalgia.


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Because of societal expectations and gender roles, many men don't receive helpful fibromyalgia treatments. Men are often forced by society to deal with their pain quietly, and as a result many men don't ask their health care providers for fibromyalgia medications. Men who experience pain are often seen as less “manly” and therefore many men don't seek active treatments for their fibromyalgia.


Most of the information used in this report was searched from Google and looked up on Wikipedia but a small amount of information was also gained from About.com and PubMed. Mostly internet sources were used but some book sources were used as well. But many other things were derived from personal experience for I suffer from fibromyalgia myself.


According to my findings the data shows that fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes many symptoms such as widespread bodily pain in muscles and connective tissues. See Figure 2. It affects both males and females but is more often found in women than in men. The cause of this disorder remains hypothetical without any concrete evidence. There are currently no diagnostic tests to definitely identify fibromyalgia and there are also no treatments for it. Most medications are limited to symptom relief. While it is true that more women are affected by this syndrome, there are also men that get affected. These men are usually overlooked because fibromyalgia is thought of as more of a ‘women's disease' than a men's one. Men also sometimes don't receive the same fibromyalgia treatment or emotional support that women do, and many men may even have trouble getting diagnosed properly.


      As has already been mentioned, there are no diagnostic tests to detect fibromyalgia in a patient and as such it is often hard to find and realize the disorder in many patients. Since there are no definitive test to identify the disorder, many patients are often treated for the wrong thing. Diagnosing fibromyalgia is oftentimes difficult and can be misdiagnosed because many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia are often similar to the symptoms of other disorders and diseases. The first step, in my opinion, is to get an accurate diagnosis. Then you need an effective treatment plan for your illness. A specialist can accurately administer fibromyalgia tests, diagnose the disease, and prescribe medication, physical therapy, and other treatments. I myself have been to more than 12 different doctors in the last 8 months in order to find some kind of solution to this problem but to date, there has been nothing helpful come out of it.

      I believe the first step in solving fibromyalgia, is to find out the cause of the disorder. Once we have the cause of the disorder, the proper treatment will come not so much later. And once we have the cause and an appropriate treatment for the disorder, it will become easier to diagnose in patients.

Works Cited;

  1. http://www.fibromyalgia-symptoms.org/fibromyalgia_women.html
  2. http://www.answers.com/topic/fibromyalgia
  3. http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Fibromyalgia
  4. http://mirapex.net/fibromyalgia/
  5. http://psychology.wikia.com/wiki/Fibromyalgia_syndrome
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fibromyalgia
  7. http://jeannehambleton77.wordpress.com/
  8. http://www.fibromyalgia-symptoms.org/fibromyalgia_relieve.html