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The facts about fibromyalgia

Many people suffer with muscle pain, stiffness and chronic fatigue for months before they are able to get a fibromyalgia diagnosis.

The condition is widely misunderstood, and patients often face an uphill battle as loved ones, employers and even medical professionals may accuse them of faking symptoms or seeking attention.

But the simple fact is: Fibromyalgia is real. An estimated 4 million people in the United States suffer from fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is more common in women, at an estimated 3.4 percent of the population. Fibromyalgia among men is less common at about .5 percent.

In “Facts and myths pertaining to fibromyalgia”, authors Winfried Hauser and Mary-Ann Fitzcharles write that fibromyalgia is controversial and that “wars” are fought over whether or not fibromyalgia is a real condition.

The same authors say even patients with a fibromyalgia diagnosis will be told by another medical professional that “fibromyalgia does not exist.” Other patients may be told their fibromyalgia pain is psychosomatic, which can feel like being told it’s “all in their head.”

“Many of those with fibromyalgia are afraid that the culture does not believe that fibromyalgia is a real disease. And they are afraid people will label them as ‘lazy’,” says rheumatologist Carmen Gota, MD. “There’s an issue of credibility that can cause a lot of stress for them.”

LEARN MORE ABOUT FIBROMYALGIA

WHAT IS FIBROMYALGIA?

While doctors may disagree on whether these symptoms stem from fibromyalgia itself or are simply side effects of persistent pain, many fibromyalgia patients suffer from some or all of them...

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WHAT MAKES FIBROMYALGIA HARD TO DIAGNOSE?

With many diseases or chronic conditions you go to a certain specialist, undergo a series of tests and an examination, and finally are diagnosed. There is not a single specialist who can give you a test for fibromyalgia. Instead, several specialists conduct a range of tests to rule out other conditions similar to fibromyalgia...

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WHAT DOES FIBROMYALGIA FEEL LIKE?

One patient said “It feels like I got hit by a semi and ran over a train then someone is stabbing me with needles all over my body.” Another said it feels like having a bad flu and an all-over body ache, while a third said it feels like the blood in her veins was replaced with cement...

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TENDER POINTS, OR FIBROMYALGIA “PAIN POINTS”

In the past, doctors would often diagnose fibromyalgia by putting pressure on these tender points and observing the patient’s response. The severity and number of points sensitive to pain were a sort of checklist for diagnosing fibromyalgia...

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TREATMENTS FOR FIBROMYALGIA

Because fibromyalgia is so misunderstood, there is no proven treatment for fibromyalgia. An expert evaluated four separate studies into fibromyalgia treatments and said the results were “all over the map...”

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