Only your physician can diagnose you with fibromyalgia and then treat you. Reading this book is a very good idea, but it still doesn't really cut it when it comes to making an actual diagnosis in your own individual case. What I can give you is a simple self-test to use to help you determine if you may have fibromyalgia syndrome.
Grab a scratch piece of paper and jot down your answers to the following "yes" or "no" questions. Then, read my analysis at the end of the list. If you think that you may be a possible candidate for fibromyalgia, make an appointment with your physician and find out for sure.
1. Do you have a lot of pain in certain specific areas of your body? If so, do these areas lack any obvious damage (such as bruising or swelling)?
2. Is your overall body pain sometimes severe?
3. Do you have trouble sleeping on three or more nights per week?
4. Do you feel exhausted about half the time or more?
5. Do people often say that you look sick?
6. Do you turn down social invitations rather than risk having to go out feeling achy and tired?
7. Do you find yourself wondering whether your aches and pains will ever go away or if you'll feel like this forever?
8. Are you always losing things and forgetting things? Do you have so much mental confusion that you sometimes wonder if it could be an early onset of Alzheimer's disease?
9. Are you having trouble finding any real pattern to your pain — because some days it's bad and some days it's not?
10. Have you started to feel "down" about your pain and fatigue? Are you wondering whether depression could be the underlying problem?
If you answered "yes" to as many as three or more of these questions, you may have fibromyalgia, although every person's case is different. That's why even if you only answered "yes" to one or two of the questions, but you think that you may have fibromyalgia, a consultation with your physician is a good idea.
Now, here's some explanation of what may be happening to you, depending on your answers to Questions 1 through 10. Keep in mind, though, that only your doctor can actually diagnose you with fibromyalgia.
^ Question 1: If you're experiencing pain in specific parts of your body, but you're not seeing bruises or any apparent evidence of tissue damage (and neither is your doctor), these painful areas may be the muscle pains characteristic of fibromyalgia. Read Chapter 8 for more information on tender points.
^ Question 2: If you said that your pain is sometimes very severe, this is another indicator that you may have fibromyalgia. Be sure to consult a physician to find out.
^ Question 3: If you have trouble sleeping three or more nights per week, this is serious. The problem may or may not be connected with fibromyalgia (although nearly everyone with FMS has sleep problems), but it's important to resolve your serious sleep deficit. If you're a walking zombie because you're not getting enough sleep, you can't perform well at work or home, nor will you be a happy person.
Also, if you're prone to developing fibromyalgia, this continuing bad pattern of a lack of sleep every night will make your other symptoms, such as your pain and fatigue, much worse.
^ Question 4: Severe fatigue is a chronic problem among nearly everyone who has fibromyalgia. Often, it's linked to a lack of sleep. But it may also be an element of FMS as a medical problem. You may also have chronic fatigue syndrome or thyroid disease, and your doctor will need to help you sort it out.
1 Question 5: If you agreed that those you care about, or maybe even strangers around you, are commenting that you look sick, something about you probably doesn't look right. You may be displaying your chronic pain and associated depression on your face without even knowing it.
On the other hand, other people tell individuals with fibromyalgia that they look "fine" and "great," and the pain and symptoms are not reflected in the face or body language of the fibro sufferer. If this has happened to you, you're definitely not alone.
1 Question 6: If you're turning down invitations that you would have accepted in the past, have a serious talk with yourself to find out why. Is it because of pain and fatigue? Or could you be having a problem with depression or anxiety — both very common problems for people with and without fibromyalgia?
1 Question 7: When your pain is constant and chronic, asking yourself if it's ever going to end is only natural. But what you need to do is consult with a physician. You may have fibromyalgia, or you may have another problem altogether. Don't wait for the pain to magically disappear. Take action.
1 Question 8: If you constantly lose things or forget things, you may have the "fibro fog" that often stems from fibromyalgia. You may also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Another possibility is that you may have neither of these but you're simply trying to do too many things at once, and you need to take some things off your plate.
How do you know which it is? You make a stab at analyzing what you're forgetting and when. If you can't even begin to do that, and you're also experiencing chronic pain, fatigue, and sleep problems, you may have fibromyalgia. But see your doctor to find out for sure.
1 Question 9: If your pain is severe on some days and then far less of a problem on other days, and you think there doesn't seem to be any pattern to it at all, you may be experiencing the chronic ups and downs of fibromyalgia.
Pain that can appear in one part of your body one day and migrate elsewhere on another day is a common symptom of FMS, as are days when you feel really bad and other days when you feel only mildly bad.
1 Question 10: If you don't seem to enjoy anything anymore and maybe are sort of overwhelmed by your many aches and pains, you may have depression. Many people with fibromyalgia have both depression and FMS. You could also have a problem with an anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), where you are overwhelmed with extreme worry.
But before rushing off to the nearest psychiatrist to ask for the latest antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as a first step, consider talking to your regular doctor or to a pain specialist. Why? Your primary problem may actually be fibromyalgia, and if your medical problem is treated and then your symptoms subsequently improve, so may your sad mood. Many doctors prescribe antidepressant medications to treat pain and FMS. Get more details on this in Chapter 10.
This test is just a starting point. If you're really concerned that you may have FMS and/or another chronic illness, make an appointment with your doctor.
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