Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a very common condition of fluctuating fatigue and widespread pain in muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons. It is a complex disorder. In addition to pain and and fatigue, there may be problems with digestion, the skin, memory, headaches. Poor sleep is universal. Pain is often profound in up to 18 tender points distributed around the body. Contributing causes may include illness, minor accidents, hormonal change and the birth of a child. There may be no obvious reason or cause. The cause may be an interaction of many process including viral action, neurological conditions which affect blood flow, sleep, muscle use and brain function.
Patients with fibromyalgia syndrome do not become crippled with the condition, nor is there any evidence it effects the duration of their expected life span. For many, there is a decrease in symptoms over time. Nevertheless, due to varying levels of pain and fatigue, there is an inevitable contraction of social, vocational and avocational activities which leads to a reduced quality of life.
Long term follow up of fibromyalgia patients has shown that it is very unusual for them to develop another rheumatic disease or neurological condition, such as multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, etc. However, it is quite common for patients with "well established" rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus and Sjogren's syndrome to also have fibromyalgia.
The prevalence of fibromyalgia seems to differ around different regions of the world. The rates vary from 10% - 20% in special clinics and 2% - 6% in the population.
Seven to ten million Americans suffer from FMS. It affects women much more than men in an approximate ratio of 20:1. It is seen in all age groups from young children through old age, although in most patients the problem begins during their 20s or 30s. It can run in families. Recent studies have shown that fibromyalgia syndrome occurs worldwide and has no specific ethnic predisposition.
This is not a psychological illness. Nor is it arthritis.