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|How Is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?
As there is no specific medical or biochemical defect associated with fibromyalgia, it can only be diagnosed after other potential causes have been ruled out. This is called a differential diagnosis, when all other factors based on symptoms; age and gender are ruled out. As so many doctors are inadequately informed about the condition, it is estimated that the average diagnosis takes about five years. This is not helped by the controversy within the medical community as to whether or not fibromyalgia is even a distinct condition. As fibromyalgia symptoms overlap with so many other conditions, the test process can be frustrating and long. Conditions for which a doctor may test for exclusion include:
As diagnosis can be difficult, the American College of Rheumatology, has issued the following guidelines for doctors:
1. There should be widespread musculoskeletal pain for at least 3 months on both sides of the body.
A physical examination and a complete medical history is the first and most important step towards a diagnosis. If your doctor is familiar enough with fibromyalgia, you should expect them to ask a variation of the following questions:
1. Is pain chronic and do you experience it constantly?
Another important part of the diagnosis is whether or not you have tender points. Fibromyalgia tender points are different to trigger points (which feel lumpy, like a knot to touch). When a tender point is touched by a doctor, it does not feel any different to a healthy person (except for the person’s reaction to the pain!). According to the American College of Rheumatology, you must feel pain in 11 of the 18 chartered tender points. Some tender points may be very sore one day, and less painful the next. This can cause diagnostic problems as on the day of a doctor's appointment only 8 or 9 points may be sore, but the following week all 18 could flare up.
Part of the doctor's examination may include a round of blood and urine tests. This will help to rule out autoimmune disorders such as arthritis or lupus. Thyroid levels may also be checked as an underactive thyroid can cause fatigue and muscle pain. Blood tests can also check for vitamin deficiencies, in particular for deficiencies in vitamin B12 and vitamin D. Also minerals such as potassium, calcium and magnesium can be tested. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies may cause weakness and pain. A blood test can also be used to screen for hepatitis B or C, AIDS or lyme disease.
Bone Diseases: A scan can check for any damage or abnormalities in the skeletal system caused by arthritis or other bone disorders.
An ultrasound scan is less stressful than a CT or MRI scan, and may be used to identify organ abnormalities and nerve tissue problems. In particular it can reveal if there is tissue damage or inflammation which would indicate another problem rather than fibromyalgia (or in addition to it!).
Related Questions And Answers
|Related Articles on Fibromyalgia
For more on gynecological pain, see the following:
• Fibromyalgia Causes: Learn what the scientists think, possible theories range from genes to a trauma and viral infection.
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