What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is characterised by chronic widespread pain and allodynia (a heightened and painful response to pressure). Other symptoms include debilitating fatigue, sleep disturbance, and joint stiffness. Fibromyalgia is frequently associated with psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety and stress-related disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder.
Its exact cause is unknown but is believed to involve psychological, genetic, neurobiological and environmental factors. There is evidence that environmental factors and certain genes increase the risk of developing fibromyalgia – these same genes are also associated with other functional somatic syndromes and major depressive disorder. The central symptom of fibromyalgia, namely widespread pain, appears to result from neuro-chemical imbalances including activation of inflammatory pathways in the brain which results in abnormalities in pain processing. The brains of fibromyalgia patients show functional and structural differences from those of healthy individuals, but it is unclear whether the brain anomalies cause fibromyalgia symptoms or are the product of an unknown underlying common cause. Some research suggests that these brain anomalies may be the result of childhood stress, or prolonged or severe stress.
Fibromyalgia has been recognized as a diagnosable disorder by the US National Institutes of Health and the American College of Rheumatology. Fibromyalgia, a central nervous system disorder, is described as a "central sensitization syndrome" caused by neurobiological abnormalities which act to produce physiological pain and cognitive impairments as well as neuro-psychological symptomatology.
Fibromyalgia is estimated to affect 2–8% of the population, with a female to male incidence ratio that is somewhere between 7:1 and 9:1. The term "fibromyalgia" derives from New Latin, fibro-, meaning "fibrous tissues", Greek myo-, "muscle", and Greek algos, "pain"; thus the term literally means "muscle and connective tissue pain".
Dr. Charalampos Dragonas MD
Rheumatologist - Internist
Member of European Academy for Medicine of Ageing (ΕΑΜΑ)