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Fibromyalgia is a common but widely misdiagnosed and misunderstood disorder. It is associated with widespread muscle and joint pain and stiffness accompanied by fatigue, disrupted sleep, struggles with memory or “fibro fog”, anxiety and depression. Symptoms can begin after a physical or psychological trauma or just appear over time. Unlike arthritis, fibromyalgia does not cause damage to the joints or muscles. It is also not progressive and is never fatal.
Women are much more likely to develop fibromyalgia than are men, and even more so as they get older. There are a lot of theories but no definite cause and no known cure for fibromyalgia. However, there are a number of medications that can help treat symptoms. While some patients experience symptoms for most of their lives, some improve over time.
No one knows what causes fibromyalgia but it most likely involves a number of factors working together. Many times the disease is linked to a physically or emotionally traumatic event like a car accident or serious viral illness. It has also been linked to repetitive injuries, though in many people it begins spontaneously. There is also evidence that genetics are involved, as fibromyalgia tends to run in families. One theory suggests that people with fibromyalgia have genes that cause them to react strongly to stimuli that others would not find painful. Researchers are looking into additional potential causes, such as problems with the way the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) processes pain.