Fibromyalgia, the disease that weakens the mind and body: why it is unleashed and how to recognize it

On May 12 every year is the day dedicated to global awareness, on fibromyalgia, a disease that tends to occur especially in women, for reasons not yet fully understood.


To raise awareness of the disease, the sections of the Italian Association of Fibromyalgic Syndrome organized events in the square, meetings and visits to hospital wards. The committee of the Fibromialgici united, throughout Italy has organized several events to raise awareness of the various aspects of the disease, signaling their presence with many purple balloons. The disease, according to estimates, afflicts two million people only in Italy and tends to arise in the age group between 20 and 55 years.


The main symptoms that characterize it are pain, described as comparable to cramps, bites, electric shocks or piercing knives, and fatigue already present on waking in the morning. Other characteristic symptoms of the disease are general malaise with morning stiffness, headache, gastroesophageal reflux, abdominal pain, irritable bowel, difficulty in concentration and memory: it is clear that a symptomatology of this kind is strongly invalidating.


A difficult diagnosis and unclear causes

“Fibromyalgia is sometimes difficult to diagnose because there are no laboratory tests to help the doctor confirm the clinical suspicion,” explains Prof. Andrea Doria, Unit of Rheumatology at the University of Padua, who adds “The disease is still more difficult to diagnose when associated with other morbid conditions characterized by pain such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus “.


The causes of this disease are not completely clear: it tends to appear after a traumatic event or after a period of strong continuous stress, in a person who has a genetic predisposition. This translates into a reduction in melatonin and norepinephrine concentration in the central nervous system.


Melatonin and noradrenaline are neurotransmitters that play an important role in controlling pain thresholds, regularity of sleep and mood. People with fibromyalgia have a reduction in these neurotransmitters, which would explain lowering the pain threshold, sleep disorders and mood problems.


Guidelines not shared

There are guidelines on how to treat the disease, but they are not universally accepted and recognized. “The reason for the absence of a consensus is that there are few randomized controlled trials and therefore” evidence based medicine “data are lacking. Therapy is therefore based on the experience of the doctor. Patients should be aware that drug therapy alone does not solve the situation, “explains Prof. Doria, who concludes.” Physical activity, especially postural gymnastics and muscular stretching exercises, is essential to stay better. It is also important for the patient to feel understood, since the pain and discomfort he feels are real and strongly invalidating, but not always taken seriously by medical personnel and family members “.

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