Fibromyalgia Tests & Diagnosis
Fibromyalgia (abbreviated as fibro, FM or FMS) is a multi-symptomatic medical syndrome of primarily both chronic pain and an increased sensitivity to pain at specific pressure points. With its wide range of symptoms, symptoms that come and go, and no specific diagnostic test available, fibromyalgia can be tough to diagnose. In fact, because there is no single objective test used to diagnose this medical condition, many physicians side against the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by conducting patient diagnoses and medical care according to the belief that fibro is not its own disease.
Ninety percent of fibro patients are female. 2-4% of the American population suffers from fibromyalgia. There are many fibromyalgia clinical trials currently underway across the globe to discover a cure for the disease.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia range from physical symptoms, such as difficulty swallowing, heightened pain upon slight pressure at specific pressure points, joint stiffness, fatigue, numbness and bowel abnormalities, to neuropsychiatric and neuropsychological symptoms, such as memory and cognitive impairment. Fibro often coexists with autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosis, and psychiatric ills such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety disorders. Fibro is often misdiagnosed as lupus, arthritis, depression, chronic fatigue disorder and chronic myofascial pain. It takes the average fibro patient about five years to receive an accurate diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
The ACR set two diagnostic measures for fibromyalgia:
- Chronic pain throughout the body for a minimum of three consecutive months
- Eleven of the eighteen pressure points on the body must yield heightened pain upon slight pressure
- No other medical condition that can account for the heightened pain and associated symptoms
In the process of diagnosing fibromyalgia, physicians must conduct tests to rule out other diseases with similar signs and symptoms. Your doctor may order a blood test to analyze thyroid function, complete blood count (CBC) and/or erythrocyte sedimentation rate. Additionally, your doctor may order kidney and liver function tests as well as cholesterol and calcium blood levels. Most importantly, your doctor will need to perform a physical exam and thoroughly discuss with you your symptoms. Fibro patients tend to have normal test results for the above tests, which is why the physical examination performed by a physician is so crucial for proper diagnosis.
A medical machine or blood panels cannot accomplish proper diagnosis for fibro. A doctor needs to spend time with a patient and consider his wide range of symptoms. The doctor should apply slight pressure to the eighteen pressure points throughout the patient’s body to determine the scale of pain experienced by the patient. Fibromyalgia could be the reason behind a patient’s sleep apnea, difficulty swallowing, joint tenderness and paradoxical normal blood test results.
For example, a patient may not have a low white blood cell count, be iron deficient, or have hypothyroidism but still experience exhaustion if he has fibromyalgia. In this specific example, blood tests showing normal white blood cell levels, normal iron levels and normal thyroid function would not reflect an existing problem experienced by the patient, making the doctor’s physical exam all the more necessary for diagnosis.
Talk to your doctor today if you have fibromyalgia. Ask your doctor about a well-suited pain management regimen for you. Your physician can recommend a variety of drugs and therapies to mask your physical and neurological symptoms and help you re-conquer the reigns of your wellness.
If you live near Birmingham, Alabama and have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, you may want to check out some Achieve’s paid fibro clinical trials to see if you qualify: