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Fatigue in Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia syndrome is a form of non-inflammatory arthritis that affects the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your body. Fibromyalgia can be quite a debilitating syndrome because of the intense pain that it causes all over the body. However, pain is not the only symptom associated with the illness. Fibromyalgia is also associated with extreme fatigue, which can make the pain of the illness even harder to bear. It can also have a great impact on a person’s ability to go to work, take care of their family, or even engage in simple daily tasks.

A Tiring Subject
People who suffer from fibromyalgia have a lot to deal with. Not only do they often have intense pain, but up to 90% of sufferers also report moderate to severe fatigue. This fatigue isn’t just your run-of-the-mill sleepiness either – this fatigue can last all of the time and for months on end.

Effects of Fatigue in Sufferers
Not all people with the syndrome suffer from extreme fatigue – some people seem to escape this fibromyalgia symptom, while others find they are able to adjust to their newly reduced energy levels. But others find that this chronic fatigue really impacts their lives in a negative way. Most disturbing is the fact that this fatigue never seems to get better, even with extended periods of rest and sleep.

Excessive fatigue seems to have a negative impact on the symptoms of fibromyalgia, particularly pain. Fatigue and pain seem to operate in a vicious cycle. Because of the severe pain many people experience, it makes sleeping difficult and sometimes impossible. This of course contributes to fatigue, which, in turn, makes the pain much harder to bear. Recent studies have shown that the amount of fatigue a fibromyalgia sufferer experiences will directly correlate with the amount of pain they have. For example, if you are feeling particularly tired one morning, you can pretty much count on having an increased amount of fibromyalgia pain during the day.

The fatigue of fibromyalgia also limits the amount of exercise that a person can do. Fibromyalgia and exercise need to go hand in hand – people have to keep their muscles in shape in order to decrease their pain in the long run. But many sufferers find they are just too tired to do this exercise, and, as a result, their pain actually increases. More of the vicious cycle.

Fatigue also has a great impact on the psychological well being of those suffering from fibromyalgia. Fatigue heightens stress and emotions, which in turn increases the amount of pain that is experienced. Fatigue and depression have also been linked. Furthermore, fatigue may contribute to the memory loss and forgetfulness that often occurs with fibromyalgia.

Causes of Fatigue
People with fibromyalgia frequently report that they are easily fatigued after physical exercise and mental exertion. Many note being unable to fall asleep, sleeping very lightly, or suddenly awaking from very deep sleep. Could these be the causes of the fatigue or is something else at work? New research is being done by fibromyalgia doctors to investigate the causes of this extreme fatigue.

Pain: Some people simply explain the fatigue of fibromyalgia as a result of the pain. This makes general sense, except that at least 10% of sufferers report no problems with fatigue despite their pain. The overall consensus is that pain definitely contributes to fatigue, but it is probably not its underlying cause.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS): The extreme fatigue that many fibromyalgia sufferers experience is very similar to that associated with CFS. CFS is usually diagnosed if you have experienced intense fatigue for a period of six months or longer. Many people with fibromyalgia may actually have CFS as well. These two syndromes are very similar and are often confused for one another. In fact, more than 75% of CFS sufferers have similar symptoms to those with fibromyalgia.

Sleep Disorders: Recently, researchers have been looking into the possibility that many fibromyalgia sufferers may actually have accompanying sleep disorders. Because so many people with the illness report extreme sleep disturbances, it appears likely that many people with fibromyalgia may actually have sleep disorders too.

Some studies have found that many fibromyalgia sufferers also have a problem with their ability to engage in deep sleep. Called the alpha EEG anomaly, this disorder is characterized by sudden brain activity during periods of deep sleep. This brain activity is seen on monitors as an alpha wave. These periods of activity may cause people to wake up or feel lest rested, contributing to fatigue.

A large number of those with fibromyalgia also suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), a sleep disorder characterized by pain and twitching in the legs. The only way to stop this pain is to keep moving your legs, disturbing sleep considerably. RLS usually occurs at night, between the hours of 10pm and 4 am, though it can also occur during the day. People with RLS report feeling as if the skin on their lower legs is twitching, burning, crawling, or being pulled on. These feelings can last for over an hour at a time.

Mitochondrial Dysfunction: A more recent explanation for the extreme fatigue that accompanies fibromyalgia focuses on a problem with the body’s energy source. Mitochondria inside our cells convert nutrients and oxygen into energy for our body. A large number of fibromyalgia sufferers seem to have dysfunctional mitochondria, and thereby don’t have enough energy to power their bodies.

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