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How is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?

Discover the evolving diagnosis of fibromyalgia, from tender point exams to widespread pain criteria. Explore diagnostic tests and the importance of health insurance coverage.

  • 13 Feb 2024
  • 2 min read

Fibromyalgia, a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain, tenderness, fatigue, and sleep disturbances, remains a mystery in terms of its origins. Although scientists haven't pinpointed its exact cause, individuals with fibromyalgia exhibit heightened pain sensitivity. While no cure exists, healthcare professionals can effectively manage its symptoms. Treatment strategies typically encompass a blend of exercise, psychological therapy, behaviour modification, and medications. 

This condition affects people of all ages, with a higher incidence in middle-aged women. Additionally, those with pre-existing rheumatic disorders, mood issues, or chronic pain conditions face a higher risk of developing fibromyalgia. Genetics may play a role, as it tends to run in families, though it can also affect those with no familial history.

Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia

  • In the past, in testing for fibromyalgia diagnosis doctors used to conduct a tender point exam with 18 specific body points.
  • New guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology have eliminated the need for this exam.
  • A fibromyalgia diagnosis now primarily relies on experiencing widespread pain throughout the body for a minimum of three months. To meet the diagnostic criteria, one must have pain in at least four of these five areas:
    • Left upper region, encompassing the shoulder, jaw, and arm.
    • Right upper region, encompassing the shoulder, jaw, and arm.
    • Left lower region, which includes the hip, buttock, or leg.
    • Right lower region, which includes the hip, buttock, or leg.
    • Axial region, encompassing the neck, back, chest, or abdomen.
  • Physicians may perform various blood tests to rule out conditions with similar symptoms, such as:
    • Complete blood count (CBC).
    • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR).
    • Rheumatoid factor (RF).
    • Cyclic citrullinated peptide test.
    • Anti-nuclear antibody (ANA).
    • Thyroid function tests.
    • Celiac serology.
    • Vitamin D levels.
  • If there's suspicion of sleep apnea, your doctor might recommend an overnight sleep study to evaluate your sleep patterns and detect any potential sleep disorders.

It's essential to note that the diagnostic approach to fibromyalgia has evolved. The testing for fibromyalgia has shifted from tender point exams to the presence of widespread pain. However, to incur the expenses involved in these hard-to-pronounce diagnostic tests, one must ensure that their loved ones are covered under the safety net of a comprehensive health insurance plan.

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Fibromyalgia, a perplexing chronic condition, triggers pervasive bodily pain, tenderness, fatigue, and sleep disturbances. Unlike in the past, the tender point examination, which assessed 18 specific bodily points, is no longer obligatory under revised American College of Rheumatology guidelines. Instead, fibromyalgia diagnosis hinges on experiencing three months of widespread bodily pain, encompassing four of five key areas: left upper, right upper, left lower, right lower, and axial regions. To exclude similar symptomatic conditions, doctors employ blood tests, including complete blood count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, cyclic citrullinated peptide, rheumatoid factor, thyroid function, anti-nuclear antibody, celiac serology, and vitamin D levels. For those potentially grappling with sleep apnea, an overnight sleep study may be recommended to unveil underlying sleep disorders.

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