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Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of fibromyalgia in adults

Don L Goldenberg, MD
Section Editor
Peter H Schur, MD
Deputy Editor
Paul L Romain, MD


Fibromyalgia (FM) is a common cause of chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain, often accompanied by fatigue, cognitive disturbance, psychiatric symptoms, and multiple somatic symptoms. The etiology of the syndrome is unknown, and the pathophysiology is uncertain [1,2]. Despite symptoms of soft tissue pain affecting the muscles, ligaments, and tendons there is no evidence of tissue inflammation.

FM, like other functional somatic syndromes, has been a controversial condition [1,2]. Patients look well, there are no obvious abnormalities on physical examination other than tenderness, and laboratory and radiologic studies are normal. Thus, the role of organic illness had been questioned, and FM was often been considered to be psychogenic or psychosomatic. However, ongoing research suggests that FM is a disorder of pain regulation, often classified as a form of central sensitization [3]. (See "Pathogenesis of fibromyalgia".)

FM is often associated with other conditions that may cause musculoskeletal pain, disruption of sleep, or psychiatric symptoms; features of these conditions may also mimic FM, and the presence of such disorders should be considered in the diagnostic evaluation. (See "Differential diagnosis of fibromyalgia".)

The clinical manifestations and diagnosis of FM will be reviewed here. The differential diagnosis of FM is discussed in detail separately, as are the possible pathogenic mechanisms and treatment of FM in adults, and the clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment of FM in children and adolescents. (See "Differential diagnosis of fibromyalgia" and "Pathogenesis of fibromyalgia" and "Initial treatment of fibromyalgia in adults" and "Treatment of fibromyalgia in adults not responsive to initial therapies" and "Fibromyalgia in children and adolescents: Clinical manifestations and diagnosis" and "Fibromyalgia in children and adolescents: Treatment and prognosis".)


Fibromyalgia (FM) is a common cause of chronic pain and the most common cause of generalized, musculoskeletal pain in women between ages of 20 and 55 years; in the United States and in other countries, the prevalence is approximately 2 to 3 percent and increases with age [4-7]. FM is more common in women than men and occurs in both children and adults [4-8]. It is six times more common in women in reports from specialty clinics, although the female predominance is not as striking in the community and when using survey criteria that do not require a tender point examination [6].

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 22, 2017.
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