William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Catherine Burt Driver, MD
Catherine Burt Driver, MD, is board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Driver is a member of the American College of Rheumatology. She currently is in active practice in the field of rheumatology in Mission Viejo, Calif., where she is a partner in Mission Internal Medical Group.
In this Article
- Fibromyalgia facts
- What is fibromyalgia?
- What causes fibromyalgia?
- Whom does fibromyalgia affect?
- What are fibromyalgia symptoms and signs?
- How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?
- Are exercise, stress reduction, or changes in diet helpful in the treatment of fibromyalgia?
- What are medications and other forms of treatment for fibromyalgia?
- What is the outlook (prognosis) for patients with fibromyalgia?
- Can fibromyalgia be prevented?
- What is in the future for fibromyalgia therapy?
- Where can people find more information about fibromyalgia and support groups?
- Fibromyalgia FAQs
- Find a local Rheumatologist in your town
How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?
There are no blood tests or X-ray tests that specifically point the doctor to the diagnosis of fibromyalgia. These tests are done to exclude other possible diagnoses. Therefore, the diagnosis of fibromyalgia is made purely on clinical grounds based on the doctor's history and physical examination. In patients with chronic widespread body pain, the diagnosis of fibromyalgia can be made by identifying point tenderness areas (typically, but not always, patients will have at least 11 of the 18 classic fibromyalgia tender points), by finding no accompanying tissue swelling or inflammation, and by excluding other medical conditions that can mimic fibromyalgia. Many medical conditions can cause pain in different areas of the body, mimicking fibromyalgia. These conditions include
- low thyroid hormone levels (hypothyroidism),
- vitamin D insufficiency,
- parathyroid disease (causing elevated blood calcium level),
- muscle diseases causing muscle pain (such as polymyositis),
- bone diseases causing bone pain (such as Paget's disease),
- elevated blood calcium (hypercalcemia),
- infectious diseases (such as hepatitis, Epstein Barr virus, AIDS),
- and cancer.
Again, even though there is no blood test for fibromyalgia, blood tests are important to exclude other medical conditions. Therefore, thyroid hormone and calcium blood levels are obtained to exclude hypercalcemia, hyperparathyroidism, and hypothyroidism. The blood alkaline phosphatase (a bone enzyme) level is often raised in patients with Paget's disease of the bone. The CPK (a muscle enzyme) level is often elevated in patients with polymyositis, a disease with diffuse muscle inflammation. Therefore, obtaining alkaline phosphatase and CPK blood levels can help the doctor decide whether Paget's disease and polymyositis are the causes of bone and muscle pains. A complete blood count (CBC) and liver tests help in the diagnosis of hepatitis and other infections. A blood vitamin D level can detect vitamin D insufficiency.
Fibromyalgia can occur alone or in association with other systemic rheumatic conditions. Systemic rheumatic conditions refer to diseases that can cause inflammation and damage to numerous different tissues and organs in the body. Systemic rheumatic conditions associated with fibromyalgia include systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, polymyositis, and polymyalgia rheumatica. Blood tests which are helpful in evaluating these diseases when they are suspected include erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), serum protein electrophoresis (SPEP), antinuclear antibody (ANA), and rheumatoid factor (RF). In patients with fibromyalgia without associated systemic illnesses, the ESR, SPEP, ANA, and RF blood tests are usually normal.
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