Fibromyalgia is an illness that causes chronic pain in muscles and ligaments. Although this disorder affects about 4 million Americans, the vast majority of them are women in their mid-30s to late-50s.
In addition to muscular pain and stiffness, this ailment can also cause fatigue, sleep problems, depression, and an inability to think clearly.
While there is no known cause for fibromyalgia, recent research has revealed some new facts about the disease. One of the new discoveries is that people with fibromyalgia process pain differently. The level of chemical in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) called substance P, which transmits pain impulses to the brain, is three times higher in people with the disease than in those who do not have the condition. This likely causes someone with fibromyalgia to experience pain more intensely.
Other researchers believe fibromyalgia is caused by a lack of deep sleep. It is during stage 4 sleep that muscles recover from the prior day's activity, and the body refreshes itself. Sleep studies show that as people with fibromyalgia enter stage 4 sleep, they become more aroused and stay in a lighter form of sleep. Even though they may sleep for a long period of time, they get poor quality sleep. Also, when researchers took normal volunteers and did not allow them to enter into stage 4 sleep, they developed symptoms similar to those of fibromyalgia.
Frederick B Gaupp, MD
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Fibromyalgia (FM) typically presents in young or middle-aged females as persistent widespread pain, stiffness, fatigue, disrupted unrefreshing sleep, and cognitive difficulties, often accompanied by multiple other unexplained symptoms, anxiety and/or depression, and functional impairment of daily living activities.