Ever since Lady Gaga announced via Twitter that she's been suffering from fibromyalgia, everyone -- from the pop queen's loyal Little Monsters, to people who don't even keep up with pop culture -- has been doing their research on the disease. What exactly is this condition, and what are the signs of fibromyalgia we should be aware of?
If you're unfamiliar with the disease, fibromyalgia can stem from either physical trauma, stress, surgery complications, or infection. According to Mayo Clinic, it affects how a person's brain processes pain, resulting in potential physical ailments such as chronic tension headaches, severe muscle cramping, irritable bowel syndrome, as well as mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
Because fibromyalgia symptoms are more or less subtle and can often be signs of a number of different health issues, the disease often goes undetected. According to Margaret Mulroney, RN, the onset of fibromyalgia can "be very slow," and it can take years before someone receives a proper diagnosis.
She told Dream Clinic,
Fibromyalgia is a syndrome rather than a disease, because the doctors don't know the cause of it yet. Sometimes fibromyalgia develops as a post-traumatic condition: if a person has a car accident and a lot of pain that never fully goes away. Then, because the symptoms can be vague, health professionals will attribute them to other causes: viruses, menopause in women, or anxiety. Often, doctors downplay the condition: They can't find an organic or physiological cause for the pain or fatigue, and so they focus on the patient's psychological outlook, and they decide the causes of the illness are psychosomatic.
It's unsure what, specifically, causes fibromyalgia, so it's important to make yourself aware of symptoms. However, because the majority of fibromyalgia symptoms are generally subtle and can technically be signs of anything, keep in mind that it's best to speak with your physician before jumping to any conclusions or engaging in self-diagnosis.
It's one thing to still feel half-asleep until coffee meets your lips first thing in the morning. But waking up after a full six to eight hours of shut-eye and feeling like you haven't gotten a decent night's rest in literal days? That's a totally different story.
Daniel J. Clauw, MD, director of the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center at the University of Michigan, told Health.com that a whopping 80 percent of people living with fibromyalgia experience chronic fatigue and have difficulty sleeping, where the latter can actually be either a result, or even a cause of chronic pain.
Headaches are a common sign of stress or illness, while a migraine -- a severe, throbbing pain occurring in one specific area of your head -- is a beast of its own.
Migraines are agonizing, and can lead to feelings of nausea, as well as sensitivity to light and sound. If you experience migraines frequently, it could be a tell-tale sign of fibromyalgia.
3. Severe Menstrual Pain
Some women endure an unusually heinous amount of pain before and during their menstrual cycle. While this could absolutely be just another instance of good ol' mother nature wreaking havoc on the female body, there's a chance that intense cramping could be a sign of something chocolate and a warm heating pad can't fix.
Period-induced muscle spasms can be problematic on their own, but when a woman suffering from fibromyalgia endures her menstrual cycle, the pain can be amplified by her body's sensitivity to pain.
4. Chronic Aches
Muscle pain is a common symptom (if not the most common) of fibromyalgia.
According to the Fibromyalgia Treatment Group, people living with the condition will feel muscle pain, spasms, tightness, or aches for long periods of time (and we're not talking hours here, we're talking months), all over the body.
5. Sweating Profusely
If you joke that "Hot In Here" is your anthem, and sweat stains are a frequent accessory to your usual clothing, there's a chance it could be a sign of something more than simply your body's insatiable need to perspire.
It sounds unusual, but Everyday Health reports that nerve dysfunction within the hypothalamus -- aka the part of the brain that controls sleep, sweat, and your bowel movements -- "causes the increase in sweating."
This symptom is often mistaken for a fever, so it might be worth noting how much and how often you sweat on a daily basis.
6. Bowel Issues
If you've been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, or if you generally find yourself frequently running to the bathroom, you may be showing signs of fibromyalgia.
IBS and diarrhea are assumed to be the result of food sensitivity or fiber deficiency, so it's easy for fibromyalgia to be overlooked in this context. But the reason why people with IBS have intense spurts of sharp pain in their lower abdominal is because their body is unable to release bowels due to muscle stiffness: aka a common red flag of fibromyalgia.