When Lady Gaga announced she had fibromyalgia in 2017, it helped raise awareness on what is often a very misunderstood condition. "Very often fibromyalgia patients go from doctor to doctor searching for an answer," says Dr. Elizabeth Volkmann, assistant professor of medicine in the division of Rheumatology at UCLA. "Doctors will look for lupus or rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and when they don't find either, they'll stop there." Here are five signs you might have fibromyalgia like Lady Gaga. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Fatigue is a common sign of fibromyalgia—Lady Gaga was even forced to postpone a 2017 tour because her symptoms were so intense. "Fibromyalgia is a diagnosis of exclusion, which means it's diagnosed only after you undergo a thorough physical examination, medical history, and tests to rule out other potential conditions," according to Yale Medicine experts. "During the physical exam, your doctor can look for a pattern of tender spots throughout your body. These tender spots, coupled with other common symptoms including fatigue, low-quality sleep, and brain fog, can point the doctor in the direction of a fibromyalgia diagnosis."
Constant, chronic pain is a key symptom of fibromyalgia. "Anyone can feel a pinprick to a small extent, but a person with fibromyalgia may feel it amplified," says Volkmann. "We look for pain in specific parts of the body: discrete areas, not like soft tissue swelling over a joint. We usually pinpoint muscle areas: 18 points throughout the body."
Fibromyalgia sufferers often describe having symptoms of headache, stiffness, and body chills. "The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown," says pain management specialist Robert Bolash, MD. "Genetics, trauma or an infection may play a role. Fibromyalgia sufferers say it feels like having the flu all the time."
Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression are strongly linked to fibromyalgia, experts say. "Fibromyalgia can create a vicious cycle of symptoms like anxiety, depression and disturbed sleep," says
rheumatologist Carmen Gota, MD. "The brain then becomes wired in stress mode and that triggers tenderness, pain, fatigue and cognitive difficulties that further increase stress and anxiety."
Sleep and Memory Issues
Chronic sleep and memory issues could be a sign of fibromyalgia, doctors say. "People with fibromyalgia experience muscular pain and tenderness throughout their body along with other symptoms, including extreme fatigue, mood disturbances (such as anxiety and depression), headaches, and problems with sleep and memory," say Hope Ricciotti, MD, and Hye-Chun Hur, MD, MPH. "While doctors don't know what causes fibromyalgia, it does sometimes run in families, which may indicate an underlying genetic predisposition to the disease."