Diagnosing fibromyalgia

If you think you have fibromyalgia, visit your GP. Diagnosing fibromyalgia can be difficult, as there's no specific test to diagnose the condition.

The symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary and are similar to those of several other conditions.

During diagnosis, you'll be asked about how your symptoms are affecting your daily life. Your body will also be examined to check for visible signs of other conditions for example, swollen jointsmay suggest arthritis, rather than fibromyalgia.

Ruling out other conditions

If your GP thinks you may have fibromyalgia, they'll first have to rule out all other conditions that could be causing your symptoms. These conditions may include:

  • chronic fatigue syndrome (also known as ME) a condition that causes long-term tiredness
  • Rheumatoid arthritis a condition that causes pain andswelling in the joints
  • multiple sclerosis (MS) a condition of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) that affects movement and balance

Tests to check for some of these conditionsinclude urine and blood tests , although you may also have X-rays and other scans. If you're found to have another condition, you could still have fibromyalgia as well.

Criteria for diagnosing fibromyalgia

For fibromyalgia to be diagnosed, certain criteria usually have to be met. Themost widely used criteria for diagnosis are:

  • you either have severe pain in three to six different areas of your body, or you have milder pain in seven or more different areas
  • your symptoms have stayed at a similar level for at least three months
  • no other reason for your symptoms has been found

The extent ofthe pain used to be assessed by applying gentle pressure to certain "tender points", where any painis likely to be at its worst. However, this isless common nowadays.

Diagnosing other conditions

It's also possible to have other conditions alongside your fibromyalgia, such as:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

If your symptoms suggest that you have another condition as well as fibromyalgia, you may need further tests to diagnose these. Identifying all possible conditions will help to guide your treatment.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Nov 2016