Fibromyalgia is a condition associated with widespread chronic pain, fatigue, memory problems and mood changes. Fibromyalgia affects up to 4 percent of the U.S. population, and it occurs more commonly in women than in men. The average age of onset is between 30 to 50 years old. Fibromyalgia is not a disease, but a constellation of symptoms that can be managed.

Fortunately, fibromyalgia is not life threatening and does not lead to muscle or joint damage. Fibromyalgia can occur by itself but also can occur in people with various forms of arthritis or related diseases such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

Although symptoms may vary in intensity, the overall condition rarely worsens over time. In a small study that traced how people with fibromyalgia felt 10 years after diagnosis, the study authors found that although symptoms may persist, many people felt better with treatment and time.

The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but is thought to be due to abnormalities in central nervous system function, leading to an “amplification” of normal pain signals.

It is as if the volume control is set too high in the nerves in a person’s body so things that wouldn’t cause pain in most people do cause pain in people with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia cannot be diagnosed with laboratory tests. The results of X-rays and blood tests are normal. Therefore, the diagnosis is based on a careful history and physical examination.

Although fibromyalgia is more common in adults, children (especially adolescent females) may be diagnosed with fibromyalgia. For children with fibromyalgia, symptoms may go away if they make behavioral changes, like improving sleep patterns.