Fibromyalgia (FM) is a disorder that:

  • causes tenderness and pain in muscles and bones
  • creates fatigue
  • can affect sleep and mood

Exact causes of FM are currently unknown, but some causes may include:

  • genetics
  • infections
  • physical or emotional trauma

According to the Mayo Clinic, some researchers are looking into how the central nervous system (CNS) processes pain and how it may increase pain in people with FM, possibly due to an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain.

FM symptoms may come and go. In most cases, the disorder doesn’t tend to get worse over time. The pain syndrome can disrupt life and make day-to-day activities more difficult.

However, people living with FM can manage their symptoms by:

  • learning how to cope with the pain by using available treatments
  • avoiding triggers that bring about flare-ups
  • manage any complications that arise from the condition

Symptoms like joint pain can limit your mobility and make it more difficult to focus during daily activities such as working.

Fibro fog is also a major symptom for patients with FM. It’s a serious condition that can lead to compromised functioning both physically and mentally.

Fibro fog, or brain fog as it’s known, is a cognitive dysfunction disorder characterized by:

  • easy distraction
  • difficulty conversing
  • short term memory loss
  • forgetfulness

Because of these symptoms, many people with FM aren’t able to work. If employment has not been an option, it’s can be difficult for you to claim disability.

For those who are able to work, FM can still reduce productivity and can lower their quality of life. It can make things that were once enjoyable difficult because of the pain and fatigue that occurs with the condition.

The pain of FM can limit your ability to be active and may cause you to withdraw from your usual activities and social life. FM flare-ups are brought on by stress and can also be brought on by depression and isolation. A cycle of pain and isolation can occur.

Many health problems are more common when you live with FM. It’s not known if:

  • FM causes these diseases
  • the diseases cause FM
  • another explanation exists

However, being aware of these related diseases could help you identify symptoms and distinguish between FM and another underlying disorder.

The following related diseases are more common in people with FM:

Many of these conditions are easily identifiable. Your healthcare provider can prescribe specific treatments for them.

Other symptoms such as bowel disease may pose a more difficult challenge.

However, it’s reported that up to 70 percent of people with FM have symptoms of:

  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • abdominal pain
  • bloating due to gas

These symptoms are the hallmarks of IBS.

FM may also present in patients with an IBD, such as Crohn's (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC).

A 1999 study published in the Journal of Rheumatology involved 113 patients with an IBD, specifically 41 patients with CD and 72 patients with UC.

Research showed that 30 percent (30 patients) of the patients had FM. Nearly 50 percent of the patients with CD had FM, while about 20 percent of the patients with UC had the condition. Researchers concluded that FM is common in people living with an IBD.

Distinguishing between FM and these related diseases can help you to identify and to treat the condition causing the symptoms.

Some activities that can help to treat FM pain and to improve your overall health include:

Many people with FM also have depression. Some people believe that depression and FM have some biological and psychological similarities.

If so, this means one will likely accompany the other. About 90 percent of people with FM have symptoms of depression. The isolation and pain that often accompanies this disorder can lead to depression.

Additionally, some healthcare providers still hold the belief that this syndrome isn’t a real illness. They believe it’s a combination of several symptoms that are brought on by stress and that it’s “all in a person’s head,” which can also lead to depression.

Therapy can help you cope with depression. One-on-one sessions can help you understand what’s going on with your body and how your thoughts may affect your health.

Support groups are also beneficial. They can help you to identify with others who have the condition and help to relieve feelings of loneliness or isolation.

Currently, there’s no known cure for FM. But treatments are available to help you manage your pain and flare-ups. In some cases, treatment can help to reduce pain gradually.

Treatment can involve:

If you’re experiencing symptoms from a related disease, it’s important to see your healthcare provider for a thorough evaluation to:

  • identify the differences in symptoms
  • confirm diagnoses
  • properly treat FM and any underlying condition

Most people with FM find their condition improves the most when they’re able to create and maintain a good symptom management plan.

This could include a combination of medications and alternative treatments, or therapy to teach you how to cope with the psychological effects of the disorder.

No matter what symptoms you have or how severe your condition is, there are treatment options that can help you to live a healthy and fulfilling life.

Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about creating a treatment plan that works best for you.