Ultimately, if you are experiencing the symptoms of fibromyalgia – widespread body pain, aches, tenderness, inability to sleep, restlessness, anxiety, depression, etc. – have a conversation without your doctor. Your doctor can do a full, comprehensive, physical exam and go over your medical history. Sometimes it can be difficult to convince your doctor, however, that your pain is real because fibromyalgia is a tough disease to pin down. The pain can be like a phantom that comes and goes, and fibromyalgia can slip under the radar of many different medical tests. There is also some doubt among physicians that fibromyalgia is a genuine medical condition; some doctors end up sending their patients home with a diagnosis of hypochondriasis or depression. Thankfully, more and more knowledge about fibromyalgia is surfacing, as well as awareness and sympathy for the condition, so it is getting easier and faster to get help.
Speedy diagnosis is not a common characteristic in determining whether or not someone has fibromyalgia, however. The average general practitioner is not familiar enough with diseases like fibromyalgia, so if you suspect that your symptoms are pointing towards fibromyalgia, you may need to ask your regular doctor to refer you to a rheumatologist. Rheumatologists deal with the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic diseases; rheumatism is just a fancy way of categorizing and labeling any and diseases that present pain and inflammation of the joints, muscles, or connective tissues in the body. Rheumatoid arthritis is an example of another rheumatic disease, and some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia overlap with those of rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis affects the joints in the hands and feet, however, while fibromyalgia pain is widespread.
So, the first thing to do when determining if you have fibromyalgia is to rule out other things that are similar enough to cause the same symptoms. Other potential problems that can cause widespread body pain are autoimmune disorders, arthritis, anemia, or a thyroid imbalance. Once everything else has been eliminated, it’s time to check the signs of fibromyalgia.
The first and simplest test doctors perform is checking eighteen points on the body that, in cases of fibromyalgia, are often tender. There are designated areas on the neck, across the chest and upper back, around the elbow joints, around the knee joints, and on the back of your hips that inflame when fibromyalgia is present in the body. If eleven of eighteen of the agreed upon fibromyalgia indicator points hurt when the doctors apply pressure, you will likely walk out of the doctor’s office with a fibromyalgia diagnosis.
For some hard, scientific data on whether or not you have fibromyalgia, there is a blood test your doctor can run. The test is called FM/a, and it looks at the immune system blood cells, identifying markers only produced by people with fibromyalgia. This blood test is relatively new, gaining headway in 2013, and it does have a high price tag. This test does eliminate any room for doubt – whether it be doubt from a doctor, doubt from family, or self-doubt – that you have fibromyalgia. One of the most unfortunate affects of undiagnosed fibromyalgia is thinking that the pain is “all in your head,” which can exacerbate battles with depression.