WHAT IS FIBROMYALGIA?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain and patients also suffer from fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. While not officially classified as an autoimmune disorder, fibromyalgia is associated with and often occurs simultaneously with conditions such as endometriosis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. Because patients with such illnesses look fine from the outside, they are also known as “invisible illnesses”.
Many people with fibromyalgia also experience tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), anxiety and depression. In short, it’s really not a fun disease to have at all. In addition to the chronic pain and fatigue, I personally experience chronic migraines, anxiety, pins and needles in my hands and legs, IBS, brain fog and weakened immunity.
Doctors don’t know what causes fibromyalgia but it is thought to involve a few factors, mainly genetics, infections as well as physical trauma. Fibromyalgia can happen to anyone. There is currently no known cure and treatment options focus mainly on pain management and improving the quality of life for patients. Many people find that a combination of pain medication, exercise, and diet can help manage symptoms.
Fibromyalgia is a complex disease to diagnose because it overlaps with so many other conditions. It can take years for some people to get a proper diagnosis. Unfortunately, there is no specific test for fibromyalgia and diagnosis is often by the elimination of other causes. I was personally diagnosed with fibromyalgia by my rheumatologist after years of repeatedly testing negative for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis which can cause similar symptoms.
It is important to note that every fibromyalgia patient is different. The severity of symptoms can differ vastly from person to person. Some people are able to carry on working or going to school while some are not able to. This does not mean one is "weaker" than the other. Also, the intensity of symptoms can vary from day to day. This means patients can feel "fine" one day and have a severe flare-up the next.
There is so much medical science still does not understand about fibromyalgia. More research must be done to identify causes and better ways of treatment. Until then, I think it is important for more patients to share their stories and raise awareness about the condition.
For more resources on fibromyalgia, check out https://www.fibrocenter.com/