Why is Fibromyalgia so hard to diagnose?

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a common chronic pain condition that involves fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, sleep disruptions, and many other possible symptoms. Diagnosing fibromyalgia (FM) is difficult. Its symptoms can mimic those of other conditions. Let’s look at the different reasons why fibromyalgia is often so hard to diagnose.

Delays In Testing

While a diagnosis of fibromyalgia is becoming more accepted in the medical community, they still may have reasons not to start the testing process right away. Under the diagnostic criteria, fibromyalgia symptoms must be present and consistent for a specific period of time. If your symptoms haven’t lasted that long, this may be a reason your provider may hold off on testing.

Another reason that causes potential delays in testing is the diagnostic process. A fibromyalgia diagnosis takes a lot of testing for various conditions and filling out questionnaires. Essentially these tests aren’t for FM but to rule out other possibilities. That’s because fibromyalgia is considered a diagnosis of exclusion.

Diagnosis by Exclusion

Fibromyalgia appears to be linked to modifications in how the brain and spinal cord manage pain signals. As a result, your doctor will usually rely on your group of symptoms to make a diagnosis. The American College of Rheumatology includes diagnostic guidelines that now include three months of widespread pain throughout your entire body. This consists of both sides of your body, above and below the waist.

Currently, there isn’t a specific test that can diagnose fibromyalgia. Until then, a diagnosis is made by excluding all other potential conditions and pre-existing conditions. Fibromyalgia causes widespread pain and:

  • Thinking and memory problems (“fibro fog“)
  • Headaches, both tension, and migraine
  • Sensitivity to temperature, light, and noise
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • TMJ syndrome
  • Morning stiffness
  • Numbing or tingling of the extremities
  • Sleep issues
  • Urinary problems

These symptoms or any combination of them can also suggest the presence of other serious illnesses, such as:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Sleep apnea
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Malignancy

FM symptoms are often life-altering, and going through this potentially long diagnostic process before getting any solid answers can be challenging. Clinical research studies continue to bring hope to those dealing with this condition despite this. Research studies help improve the way we detect, manage, and prevent chronic diseases like FM.

Don't let fibromyalgia ruin your quality of life

If you have pain from fibromyalgia, clinical research studies enrolling now at Charlottesville Medical Research may help. To learn more, call us at 434-817-2442, or visit our website.