Fibromyalgia (FM) affects approximately 10—20 million individuals in the U.S. FM is a chronic condition associated with widespread pain and tenderness along with other symptoms such as problems with sleep, memory, mood, and fatigue. Women tend to be more susceptible to FM, usually in middle age (20 years—50 years), and there is some evidence to suggest that it runs in families. If you have FM, the pain and fatigue can affect many areas of your life including work, daily activities, enjoyment of hobbies, and taking care of your family. Currently there is no known cure for FM, but its symptoms can be managed successfully. Symptoms include:
- Pain and tenderness: The most common symptoms of FM are widespread pain and tenderness. These symptoms tend to be highly variable with some days being better than others. The location of pain may also change over time - people often describe FM as "whole body pain" since the pain and tenderness of FM is not confined to a single location within the body.
- Fatigue: The fatigue of FM is described as both physical fatigue and mental fatigue. Both types of fatigue are described as being more profound than "general tiredness". People with FM are more easily fatigable and when fatigued, slower to recover. People with FM fatigue often consider the fatigue to be as problematic as the pain.
- Sleep Problems: Some individuals with FM may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Others may sleep through the night but upon waking, feel unrefreshed as though they were unable to sleep at all.
- Cognitive and Memory Problems: Problems with thinking (also referred to as "Fibro-Fog") can take many forms including: difficulty concentrating, difficulty remembering, difficulty finding the right words for objects or people, mental cloudiness, difficulty navigating, and sensing that thinking is slower than usual.
- Depression and Anxiety: While FM used to be misdiagnosed as a variant of depression, depression and anxiety often co-exist with FM. When present, anxiety and depression can make FM symptoms worse. The depressive symptoms and anxiety do not need to be at the level of a diagnosable disorder to influence pain perception. Simply experiencing the symptoms of FM will likely have a negative impact on mood which in turn can make other FM symptoms worse.
- Sensory Sensitivity: In addition to pain, individuals with FM tend to experience hypersensitivity to light, sound, touch, taste, odors, and medications. This means that for people with FM, sensations will become unpleasant at intensities that do not bother other people. For example, individuals with FM may feel chilled or overly warm at temperatures that seem normal to others, movies or concerts may seem uncomfortably loud, or common perfumes may seem noxious.
- Stiffness: Stiffness upon wakening is common for individuals with FM. Stiffness can also occur after sitting or standing or when there are changes in barometric pressure.
- Dryness of Eyes or Mouth: Some individuals with FM report excessively dry eyes and/or mouth even when tear production or saliva is normal.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
Chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as myalgic encephalopathy is a serious, chronic disease that affects the whole body, making it difficult to function normally. CFS affects more than 1 million Americans, and women are more often affected than men. CFS commonly affects people in their 30s—50s but can strike patients younger than age 10 and older than age 70. At least 25% of CFS patients are so ill at some point in their illness that they are in bed or unable to leave their house. The illness involves the immune system, body metabolism (the way energy is made by your body's cells), and the nervous system (the brain and nerves that control the body), which can create problems or symptoms in the entire body.
- Unable to carry out normal daily activities
- Very tired at times, often exhausted and ill all over
- Prone to symptoms worsening during physical activity, trying to think too hard, or when experiencing emotional stress
- Likely to experience unrefreshing sleep and sleep disturbances
- Cognitive or thinking problems, such as trouble organizing, feeling easily confused or overwhelmed, slow thinking, forgetfulness, and/or
- Orthostatic intolerance, which means feeling ill from standing upright, and feeling relief from symptoms after lying down and elevating the feet.
- Feeling generally weak, dizzy, or out of balance when walking
- Nausea, bloating, digestive discomfort, sensitivities to certain foods
- Palpitations, discomfort in the chest, especially when standing or walking
- Cold hands and feet
- Intolerance of extreme temperatures, either hot or cold
- Sensitivity to sound and light
- Feeling feverish or like you have the flu, especially when overly tired
- Pain of varied types
- Headaches of many types
- Muscle and joint aches throughout the body
- Tender lymph nodes, mild sore throat, and achiness of a low-grade fever
- Peripheral neuropathy (tingling or burning in both feet and sometimes the hands)
- Paresthesias (tingling, numbness, and burning sensations, lasting only a few minutes, hours, or days)
- Abdominal pain, bloating or discomfort
- Uncomfortable feelings in the chest, especially when not lying down
- Pain and tenderness all over the body, without a clear cause, especially after trying to do things.
Post-Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS)
Post-intensive care syndrome (PICS) is a term used to describe new or worsening physical, mental, or emotional health problems that remain after critical illness and hospital discharge. Among patients discharged from intensive care units, over half will be affected by PICS. Anyone who survives a critical illness can develop PICS, even if they were healthy before getting sick. It is also possible for family members and caregivers of critically ill patients to be diagnosed with PICS. PICS is most common among those who spent time in an intensive care unit, those with more complications associated with their illness like sepsis, and those placed on a ventilator. Having pre-existing chronic physical conditions, psychiatric disorders, or cognitive dysfunction can also increase the chance of developing PICS.
- Brain fog and trouble thinking clearly
- Memory problems
- Difficulty speaking
- Poor organization or concentration
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) including nightmares and reliving experiences associated with being ill
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Insomnia and other sleep problems
- Difficulty with movement and exercise
- Muscle weakness
- Decreased ability to carry out activities of daily living
- Breathing problems
Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)
Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, also known as POTS, is a condition that affects blood flow in the body. POTS occurs when the body is unable to control heart rate and blood pressure after standing up, resulting in a wide range of symptoms. POTS symptoms generally develop when standing up from a sitting or reclined position, with the symptoms being reduced when returning to the sitting or reclined position. Between 1 and 3 million people in the United States suffer from POTS, with the cause being unknown. Those who have had a serious illness, such as mononucleosis or a severe illness may develop POTS, especially if their illness involved hospitalization, immobilization, or both. Although POTS is not life-threatening, it can make it incredibly difficult to complete daily tasks and maintain the same quality of life prior to onset of symptoms.
- Tachycardia (fast heartbeat)
- Brain fog
- Heart palpitations (heart feels like it is pounding or skipping a beat)
- Blurred vision
- Poor sleep
- Lack of concentration
- Worsening of symptoms with increased activity
- Pale face
- Purple discoloration of feet and hands when below level of the heart