Today is National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, which raises awareness for a chronic disorder that impacts an estimated five million adults in the United States, and is characterized by widespread pain and tenderness, often accompanied by fatigue, impaired memory and other physical issues.
The condition may occur with other chronic pain conditions, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but researchers believe it could be the result of several factors, including genetics, illness and physical or emotional trauma, which lead to an abnormal processing of pain.
In the video above from The Doctors, Maggie says she has suffered from fibromyalgia for over 10 years, but receiving the correct diagnosis was a challenge. “I started getting headaches, chronic pain, pain in my hips, my arms, my legs, my joints, and even in my big toe,” she recalls. “X-rays showed no problems with my hips, and tests proved negative for gout, arthritis and even MS.”
After seeing a rheumatologist and a neurologist, she finally learned that she has fibromyalgia.
“Because of my constant pain, I can no longer do all of those things I used to go do, even visiting my children,” Maggie explains. “It’s just awful, because people don’t understand, and it’s been going on for so long that people think I’m making up my symptoms.”
Maggie turns to The Doctors for help. “It’s very frustrating because there’s a lack of information regarding fibromyalgia,” she says. “I would like some relief and some answers.”
In the video above, ER physician Dr. Travis Stork and Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, Pfizer’s Chief Medical Officer, describe different tests doctors use to diagnosis fibromyalgia, common symptoms and what to do if you receive the diagnosis.
Common symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- Widespread pain that lasts for at least three months
- Fatigue and waking unrefreshed
- Cognitive impairments
- Dry eyes and mouth
- Mood disturbances
- Irritable bowel and bladder
- Pain or cramps in the lower abdomen
- Headaches and migraines
Dr. Stork explains that to diagnose fibromyalgia, a physician may perform a tender point exam, in which he or she presses on specific points throughout the body. If 11 out of 18 of the areas cause tenderness or pain, a diagnosis might be made.
Women are five times more likely than men to receive a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, according to Dr. Lewis-Hall, and the disorder can present differently depending on the patient, so treatment will require working with one’s physician and medical team to create a comprehensive and individualized plan. Treatment may include supportive and cognitive behavioral therapies, medications and light aerobic exercise.