Can Teenagers Develop Fibromyalgia?

There are certain medical conditions out there that still leave the entire medical world confused and in debate. Fibromyalgia is one of them. Although not a disease proper, this set of symptoms has been long connected to many other diseases and medical conditions and for a very long time people thought it was just a form of depression (as it very frequently comes along with this mental disorder as well). However, more recently, medical specialists have started to agree on the fact that fibromyalgia should be researched as such.

Up to the moment, no research has been able to show exactly what it is that causes fibromyalgia. Therefore, no actual cure has been developed for it. Yet, the separate symptoms can be treated accordingly and many people have learned to live with this disorder as well as possible.

Fibromyalgia and What It Actually Is

Putting a definition on fibromyalgia is extremely difficult to make, as it is characterized by many symptoms and adjacent medical conditions. Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that is mostly characterized by widespread pain – but this is not its only symptom, which makes this particular medical condition quite difficult to diagnose. In fact, most of those suffering from fibromyalgia are very frequently diagnosed with other diseases and medical conditions such as depression, MS, and so on.

In addition to pain, there are many other symptoms patients experience. Some of them experience a larger number of them (or even all, sporadically or not), while others experience fewer of them. These symptoms can differ a lot from one person to another and they can be very misleading for the doctor putting the diagnosis. Here is a list of some of the most commonly encountered symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sleeping issues (such as insomnia and/or the restless leg syndrome, or waking up as tired as you went to sleep)
  • Muscle painkMuscle twitching
  • The irritable bowel syndrome (characterized by bloating, gas, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and so on)
  • Irritable bladder (frequent urination)
  • Fatigue (which can range from moderate to severe)
  • Lack of energy
  • Jaw tenderness
  • Facial tenderness
  • Migraines
  • Numbness and tingling in the legs, arms, hands
  • Swelling feeling without actual swelling

These symptoms can sometimes be experienced at a higher intensity when the patient is going through a stressful period, when there are hormonal fluctuations, when the patient is depressed, when there is a longer period of inactivity and so on.

fibromyalgia in teens

What Causes Fibromyalgia, Actually?

This is a question not just patients out there ask themselves every day, but also medical researchers. The truth is that fibromyalgia’s causes have not been determined exactly. There are many theories going around and there are also some risk factors, but sometimes the line between what appears to be a cause and what appears to be a symptom is very thin – which, again, makes it nearly impossible to actually develop a cure for this syndrome.

A lot of medical researchers argue that fibromyalgia is very much connected to the way in which the body senses pain. Due to the smaller amounts of serotonin secreted by the brain, the body may start feeling pain at a higher intensity than normally. However, this drop of the serotonin levels cannot be actually explained.

Some people also say that injury brought to the brain or to the vertebral spine can lead to the onset of fibromyalgia. Others connect fibromyalgia with depression and with the drop in the serotonin levels experienced by the patients with both conditions. And then are the researchers who point out that people coming from families where one member (or more) suffer from fibromyalgia show increased risk of developing the condition as well (and this may actually be related to some genes in the human body which appear to be altered in the case of those with fibromyalgia).

In addition to everything, poor physical condition can also influence whether a person will develop fibromyalgia or not and that is so because exercising releases important chemicals for the human body and it makes it generally more resistant to pain.

Fibromyalgia in Teens

Unfortunately, there are more than 5 million people living in the United States only who suffer from this terrible condition. Among them, teenagers and children do not commonly develop this syndrome, as women who are over the age of 18 seem to be the ones more at risk.

However, it is believed that a percentage that could be anything between 1% and 7% of the children are fibromyalgia diagnosed or suspects. If in the case of adults fibromyalgia is very difficult to diagnose, in the case of children and teens it can be even more difficult, as the symptoms appear to be even more elusive.

One of the most difficult things related to fibromyalgia in teens (and in adults as well) is related to the fact that all the symptoms seem to be inter-connected somehow and they all seem to be part of a vicious cycle. A teen who doesn’t sleep well will feel fatigue and a fatigue person can feel pain much more intensely than a person who is well rested, for example. The same thing goes with all the other symptoms displayed by fibromyalgia patients (be them teenagers or not).

Anxiety and depression, sleep disturbances, stomachaches, headaches, memory issues, dizziness – these are all commonly encountered in the case of teenagers and children who suffer from fibromyalgia. But one of the main things a doctor will do in order to actually diagnose the disease is pressing on the 18 so-called “tender points” in the human body.

If the teen displays pain in some or in all of these tender points, the doctor will proceed with further examinations that could reveal the presence of fibromyalgia. One of these tests, called FM/a is among the best ones to diagnose fibromyalgia and it analyzes some markers in the human blood that have been researched to belong only to people with fibromyalgia.

As for treatment, the doctor will probably not prescribe the same kind of medication as he/she will prescribe for an adult (as the safety and effectiveness of these drugs has not been sufficiently tested on children and teens).

However, he/she can prescribe pain medication, exercising and lifestyle changes, as well as a series of other treatments and remedies meant to ameliorate the situation for the teenagers with this syndrome.