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Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition which causes widespread pain and extreme tiredness. It is estimated that fibromyalgia affects nearly 1 in 20 people worldwide. In England and Wales, there could be up to 1.76 million adults with the condition.

Anyone can develop fibromyalgia, although it affects more women than men. In most cases, fibromyalgia develops between 30 and 60 years of age, but it can occur in people of any age, including children and the elderly.

The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. Research into people with fibromyalgia has identified a number of changes in the way their body functions. However, what causes these changes, and how these cause fibromyalgia, is still not clear.

Changes noticed in people with fibromyalgia include:

  • Disturbed pain messages
  • Low levels of hormones
  • Sleep problems


Risk factors

There may be some risk factors that can either make fibromyalgia more likely, or act as a trigger for the condition. These include:

  • Physical trauma
  • Psychological trauma
  • A viral infection
  • Being depressed


Fibromyalgia has many symptoms; the symptoms tend to vary from person to person.

The main symptoms of fibromyalgia:

  • Pain
  • Extreme sensitivity (sensitive to pain)
  • Stiffness in the body
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Poor quality sleep
  • Cognitive problems ('fibro-fog')
  • Trouble remembering and learning new things
  • Problems with attention and concentration
  • Slowed or confused speech
  • Headaches
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Depression
  • Constantly feeling low
  • A lack of interest in the things you usually enjoy
  • Feeling tearful


Other symptoms of fibromyalgia can include:

  • Not being able to regulate your body temperature (feeling too hot or too cold)
  • Restless legs syndrome (unpleasant sensations in your legs and feeling like you need to move your legs to get some relief)
  • Tingling, numbness, prickling, or burning sensations in your hands and feet (paraesthesia)
  • Tinnitus (the perception of a noise in one or both ears that comes from inside your body)
  • Unusually painful periods (in women)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression


Your symptoms may sometimes get better or worse, depending on factors such as: changes in the weather, your stress levels or how physically active you are.

Fibromyalgia can be a difficult condition to diagnose because there is no specific test and the symptoms can be similar to those of other conditions. Diagnosis is usually based on your symptoms and tests to rule out other conditions.

* The contents of this condition is for information purposes only.