Until recent years, many people questioned the existence of fibromyalgia. But most experts now agree that fibromyalgia is a distinct medical condition characterized by widespread pain, sleep problems, tender points around the body, and a host of other symptoms that range from irritable bowel syndrome to depression. Still, fibromyalgia is a baffling condition, one that is hard to diagnose and difficult to treat.

According to the National Institutes of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal, and Skin Diseases, fibromyalgia affects 3 to 6 million people in the United States, which means one in fifty Americans has this condition. The majority of sufferers are women, but the condition also occurs in men and children of all ages and races. Although the condition starts at a younger age, experts estimate that more than 7 percent of women between the ages of sixty and seventy-nine have fibromyalgia.

The symptoms of fibromyalgia vary drastically from one patient to another, but almost everyone experiences a degree of pain and fatigue. Other common problems include memory problems, trouble concentrating, painful menstrual periods, headaches, and intolerance for cold temperatures.

But people with fibromyalgia may also experience other problems that do not occur in hypothyroidism. For instance, fibro sufferers often suffer from restless legs syndrome, an irresistible urge to move your legs during sleep as the result of abnormal sensations. They may also have temporomandibular joint disorder, numbness and tingling in the extremities, and morning stiffness.

Diagnosing fibromyalgia is tricky. Like CFIDS, there are no blood tests or X-rays that confirm fibromyalgia, so doctors are left to rely only on self-reported symptoms. Doctors may also do palpation tests on tender points. Many times, diagnosis is made after other conditions — such as hypothyroidism — are ruled out. If you're having these symptoms, ask your doctor to check your thyroid.

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