Fibromyalgia Syndrome affects 3 to 6 million people in the United States alone. Although men live with the disorder it’s more common among women, with a ratio of 9:1 according to The American College of Rheumatology criteria. Although it is not life threatening it can be very difficult to endure.
Symptoms vary with each individual but can be debilitating and hinder one’s regular activities. Chronic musculoskeletal pain, severe fatigue, sensitivity to touch, burning, stabbing and shooting muscle pain are just some of the symptoms of Fibromyalgia. Many patients suffer with irritable bowel syndrome, chronic bladder conditions, cognitive or memory impairment and dizziness. Some have reported Migraine Headaches, Upper Airway Resistance while sleeping, Alpha-EEG and Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction Syndrome. Certain medical conditions are commonly associated with Fibromyalgia such as: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus (SLE) and Sjogren’s Syndrome. Many things can cause the patient’s symptoms to worsen. Some have reported a change of sleep cycle, stress and weather conditions to be triggers. Cold temperatures, barometric pressure and humidity can also cause the symptoms to worsen.
There is no know cause of Fibromyalgia but some doctors believe that it is linked to suffering an injury or physical or emotional trauma which affects the nerves, spine and brain. Recent studies show that genetic factors may predispose individuals to a genetic susceptibility to Fibromyalgia.
For the person that lives with this disorder their entire life is impacted. Not just by the physical pain but also by the emotional as well. Because this is an invisible condition, family, friends and even employers doubt that there is actually anything wrong with the person that is struggling. They regard them as hypochondriacs, unmotivated and lazy. They believe that since there is no visual evidence of an illness there can’t possibly be one. This isn’t always just the opinion of those that are close to them, it has also been the opinion of some doctors. Since there aren’t blood tests to diagnose Fibromyalgia some doctors come to the conclusion that the patient has a psychological disorder and suggests therapy with a psychiatrist and often anti-depressants are prescribed. Despite the unbelief of others, those living with this disorder know that there is something wrong with them; that it isn’t something that they are imagining, nor are they crazy. By not having the support of family and friends as well as a doctor’s diagnosis, they become isolated, helpless and eventually these feelings can lead to depression. Although family and friends care for them and want to understand what they are going through, many are incapable. They can’t grasp the idea that the patient is no longer able to participate in activities, attend work or even manage their pain. Because of this they tend to become bitter and sometimes resentful towards the patient. Their relationships suffer and in some cases can be broken beyond repair.
However, there is hope for both the patient and their families. Although there is no cure for Fibromyalgia, treatments are available. Pain Management Specialists, Occupational Therapists and Rheumatologists are highly skilled in this area. Trigger point injections, guaifenesin therapy, prescribed medications and nerve blocks are just a few treatment options that have been shown to be beneficial. Families also have access to resources on how to understand and live with someone struggling with Fibromyalgia. There are support groups, family counseling and published articles available. Being educated about Fibromyalgia Syndrome enables family members to be a support system and offer the encouragement needed to cope with this disorder.