How do you prevent and even treat fibromyalgia, a disease that in recent times is gaining more and more attention based on the high frequency with which it occurs? “Fibromyalgia syndrome or fibromyalgia – explains Professor Bianca Marasini, Head of the Operating Unit for Rheumatology at Humanitas Hospital- can affect children and adults, but it especially affects women around the ages of 40-50. It is a disease that, in addition to being very frequent, is also subtle: it is called the “invisible disease” because all examinations relating to the syndrome come back negative and the patient appears healthy, although they are not.”
What is fibromyalgia and how can it be recognized?
The symptoms vary, explains the rheumatologist specialist: “The main symptom associated with fibromyalgia is widespread pain all over the body, which can occur at any hour of the day and even at night, and generally impedes an individual’s movement. The pain is never associated with swelling or redness in the joints, which is what, makes the diagnosis difficult. Other symptoms that often occur include fatigue, disturbed sleeping pattern, headache, abdominal pain, difficulty concentrating, constipation, diarrhea, feeling of fullness, and feeling of swollen hands and feet.”
These are the symptoms that should suggest the presence of fibromyalgia and trigger the alarm to take action and prevent it from worsening. As mentioned, the widespread pain should be especially treated even though it is not associated with signs of inflammation. “We still know very little about the causes of fibromyalgia, however, we believe there is an alteration to the base of the pain by which the brain processes the signals, amplifying the sensitivity. For this reason, the first therapeutic approach is directed to drugs that regulate the activity of the neurotransmitters, i.e. substances – in particular serotonin and norepinephrines – this regulate the level of pain perception educed by the central nervous system.”
Fibromyalgia: mental and physical stress
A characteristic of fibromyalgia is that it often occurs in periods following stress, whether mental or physical. “Due to this reason – concludes Professor Marasini – the patient with fibromyalgia must be treated and should never be left alone. Fibromyalgia is not dangerous, it does not involve complications, and it does not cause deformity, however it is a real illness that should be treated even with an educational program, which aims to strengthen an individual’s ability to manage pain and stress. Drug therapy and psychological support should be implemented whenever necessary and always associated with a physical activity program that is gradual yet continuous.”