Living with pain every single day of one’s life can be extremely difficult. Unfortunately, chronic pain does not forgive – and in too many of the cases it cannot be completely cured either.
It can come under many shapes and it can affect almost any part of the human body too. It can last for hours, days, months and years. And the only thing patients who are diagnosed with a chronic pain-related illness is try to manage their bodies as well as they can.
Fibromyalgia is very frequently misunderstood and understated. Even today, in the 21st century, when so much has been said about this syndrome, there are still many doctors who refuse to accept the fact that it exists. For more than 5 million Americans diagnosed with fibromyalgia, it does exist and it is painful, hard to control and confusing at the same time.
Fibromyalgia: The Things We Know
We don’t know much about fibromyalgia. As a general definition, fibromyalgia is a syndrome whose most predominant symptom is widespread pain – but beyond that, things can get incredibly confusing even for the world’s leading researchers.
For a long time, fibromyalgia was not even officially recognized and people showing its symptoms were diagnosed with other medical conditions (depression, for example). Even today, as it as mentioned before, some doctors still don’t accept the fact that fibromyalgia does exist. And even when they do, misdiagnoses can appear very frequently because fibromyalgia can be very, very similar to a lot of other medical conditions: the myofascial pain syndrome, depression, the chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis and even lupus.
The truth is that fibromyalgia does show very diverse symptoms that can easily lead one into confusion. From headaches to joint pain, there are really a lot of things patients can experience and each patient can show a completely different set of symptoms.
Fibromyalgia patients can show fatigue, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, muscle pain, joint pain, arthritis, stiffness when waking up, tension headaches/migraines, hypersensitivity when it comes to odors, lights and other stimuli, depression, anxiety, jaw tenderness, irritable bladder swelling and other symptoms as well.
We also know that we don’t know the exact cause of fibromyalgia. Since research has been made in this field, there are some theories that could explain the reason why some people develop this syndrome. One of them is connected to genetics and to polymorph genes which are responsible with helping the body feel pain.
Yet, the research based on this theory is inconclusive because the same genes could lead to other medical conditions too (chronic fatigue syndrome, for example). The large occurrence of fibromyalgia that runs in the family does show that there may be some connection to the genetics one has, but other than that, there are still some questions to be answered.
Furthermore, there are scientists sustaining the idea that fibromyalgia is not actual pain, but a wrongful perception of pain that arises out of the fact that the pain neurotransmitters do not function normally.
Depression and lack of sleep can also be connected very tightly to fibromyalgia and some scientists have theorized that these are not actual symptoms of this syndrome, but the very causes. Lack of sleep can indeed cause hypersensitivity and it can be at the foundation of a lot of fibromyalgia-related symptoms, but there should be other factors influencing whether one gets fibromyalgia or not.
How Is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?
Although putting the fibromyalgia diagnosis is difficult, it can be done if your doctor is very careful about all the symptoms you experience. First and foremost, he/she will make a list of them and see if they fit into the fibromyalgia profile (or at least as much as such a wide range of symptoms can be called a profile).
Further on, the doctor will analyze the 18 tender points in the body. People used to believe that fibromyalgia can be diagnosed only when at least 11 of these points are sensitive, but this rule is not being used these days any longer because even less tender points can show the presence of fibromyalgia.
The doctor will also have to see if you don’t have any other co-morbid conditions and if you don’t suffer from anything else than fibromyalgia as well, so he/she may have to run some tests too. Even more, do bear in mind the fact that the fm/a test has been created precisely for diagnosing fibromyalgia, but the truth is that it is still inaccessible to most of the patients, as it costs around $750 and it is not yet covered by the vast majority of the health insurance agencies out there.
Naltrexone and Fibromyalgia
Since the cause of this syndrome is not known, there is no cure developed either, so the only treatment patients can get is symptomatic. There are some drugs that have been FDA approved to treat fibromyalgia and they are similar in nature to anti-depressants.
Recently, studies have been made and low-dose naltrexone appears to be an effective drug in treating fibromyalgia as well. Usually administered to alcohol and narcotic addicted people to minimize the withdrawal symptoms, naltrexone is a drug that works with the endorphins secreted by the human mind. In most of the cases, it will make the patient feel good and this is extremely helpful for those dealing with fibromyalgia (and other similar conditions such as the chronic fatigue syndrome).
Even more than that, it is believed that naltrexone can affect certain immune cells in the central nervous system (the microglial cells, to be more precise). These cells are responsible with the sickness feeling patients experience when fatigued and naltrexone may help them relieve themselves from these symptoms too.
Naltrexone’s effectiveness in treating fibromyalgia is still studies, but patients have shown decreased levels of pain, stress and fatigue – and this is only a good sign. However, do keep in mind the fact that this drug can have adverse effects too and that they include sleeping issues (at first), prolonged erections and weight loss too.