Fibromyalgia is a common syndrome that involves chronic fatigue, generalized muscle aching, and stiffness. Two percent of the U.S. population, primarily women of childbearing age, are affected by this syndrome (American College of Rheumatology Fact Sheet, 2000). Although criteria for the classification of fibromyalgia have been established (Wolfe & Skevington, 1990), controversy exists as to whether this diagnosis represents a unique syndrome. The cause is unknown and no pathologic characteristics have been identified that are specific for the condition. Treatment con-sists of attention to the specific symptoms reported by the patient. NSAIDs may be used to treat the diffuse muscle aching and stiff-ness. Tricyclic antidepressants are used to improve or restore nor-mal sleep patterns, and individualized programs of exercise are used to decrease muscle weakness and discomfort and to improve the general deconditioning that occurs in these individuals (American College of Rheumatology Fact Sheet, 2000; Burck-hardt, 2001b; Clark et al., 2001).
Typically, patients with fibromyalgia have endured their symp-toms for a long period of time. They may feel as if their symp-toms have not been taken seriously. Nurses need to pay special attention to supporting these individuals and providing encour-agement as they begin their program of therapy. Patient support groups may be helpful. Careful listening to patients’ descriptions of their concerns and symptoms is essential to helping them make changes necessary to improve their quality of life (Anderson & Burckhardt, 1999).
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