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Fibromyalgia

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is arthritis that causes joint inflammation and stiffness for more than six weeks in children 16 years old or younger. JRA can affect any joint and mobility may become limited.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder affecting between 2 and 4 percent of the population. Patients with fibromyalgia usually have generalized aches and pains. They sleep poorly, complain from stiffness after waking, and are tired all day. People with fibromyalgia suffer from recurrent headaches, memory and concentration problems, dizziness, numbness and tingling, itching, fluid retention, abdominal or pelvic pain and diarrhea, among other symptoms.

Symptoms

Fibromyalgia is marked by overall musculoskeletal pain and tenderness. Tenderness often occurs in clusters, or multiple tender points in precise, localized areas, more notably in the spine, shoulders, neck and hips. Other symptoms include:

  • fatigue
  • persistent headaches
  • difficulty concentrating
  • tingling, numbness, itching in the limbs
  • fluid retention

Who Gets Fibromyalgia?

According to the American College of Rheumatology, fibromyalgia affects 3 to 6 million Americans. It occurs most often in women of childbearing age.

Causes

Researchers are not sure what causes fibromyalgia, a condition once thought to be triggered by inflammation in the body or by depression and stress. None of these hypotheses has been supported by research evidence. One leading theory explores the link between fibromyalgia and sleep abnormalities. Patients often note that not getting enough sleep or even just staying up an hour late makes their fibromyalgia symptoms worse the next day.

Researchers speculate that people with abnormalities that occur in their brain during deep sleep may be more prone to fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is also associated with certain changes in the immune system that resemble changes triggered by the presence of a virus. Such virus, however, has not been isolated.Fibromyalgia does not appear to be an autoimmune disorder like rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis.

However, the levels of certain cytokines, a class of immune system hormones, are elevated in people with fibromyalgia. Thus, fibromyalgia may be the result of elevated cytokines levels produced by an immune system gone out of whack due to deep-sleep disturbances. This explanation is by no means proven, and several other good theories exist. Fibromyalgia often runs in families, suggesting a genetic component. It may lie dormant until triggered by an infection, injury, stress or sleep disturbances.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing fibromyalgia is tricky because its symptoms mimic the symptoms of a host of other conditions. Fibromyalgia can not be diagnosed by blood tests or X-rays. A physician makes the diagnosis based on medical history, evaluation of symptoms and a physical examination. The American College of Rheumatology has developed criteria for physicians to help them in the diagnostic process.

Treatment

Treatments vary from person to person, but generally they include taking medication to improve deep sleep, daily exercise and reducing exertion and stress. Low-impact aerobic exercise, swimming or walking are ideal. Stretching may be helpful in symptom relief. Applying heat and massage also can assuage symptoms.