Vail Visiting Angels column: Fibromyalgia can be hard to diagnose
I’d like to provide specific answers to what fibromyalgia is and how to identify it. However, while I can tell you what it is, and what effects it may have, it’s difficult to tell if you have it.
According to the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association, fibromyalgia affects roughly 10 million to 20 million Americans each year and is more prevalent in women. It is a common and complex chronic pain characterized by widespread pain and sensitivity throughout the body. Sound vague? It is.
What I can tell you is this: The most common symptoms of fibromyalgia include widespread body pain, fatigue, poor sleep and mood problems. However, anxiety, concentration or memory issues, depression, headaches and sleep problems are also common. With such diverse symptomology commonplace in other conditions, medical providers are often challenged in diagnosing fibromyalgia.
Consequently, people who may suffer from fibromyalgia too often leave their medical provider’s office without answers to their ailments and are left feeling that their provider has alluded that it’s all in their head.
Therefore, I have had clients ask our caregivers, and me personally, to attend their medical appointments because they feel we could bring some essence of credibility to their complaints of widespread pain and fatigue.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
The National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association estimates that, on average, it can often take as long as five years for a person with fibromyalgia to receive an accurate diagnosis. In a time where enormous advancements have occurred in medical technology, people tend to think there is a cure or a fix for every medical problem. Thus, it may be difficult to understand why there are no clear-cut certainties in diagnosing fibromyalgia.
Diagnosis is complicated by the fact that it cannot be detected through X-rays, scans or common blood work. Further, as mentioned above, its symptomology is diverse, ailments wax and wane throughout time, and it affects people differently — physically, mentally and socially. Unfortunately, as with almost all ailments, stress often worsens the related problems and symptoms.
A couple years ago, a contact at UCLA directed me to a company called EpicGenetics Inc. The company is composed of worldwide experts from Harvard, UCLA, Cornell, University of Illinois at Chicago and other top research institutions. Through great amounts of collaboration and research, a blood test was developed called FM/a which has a high accuracy in identifying markers produced by immune system blood cells in people with fibromyalgia. The test has a very high degree of accuracy, and most insurance companies may pay for it.
According to the Mayo Clinic, doctors don’t know what causes fibromyalgia, but it most likely involves a variety of factors working together. These may include:
• Genetics: Because fibromyalgia tends to run in families, there may be certain genetic mutations that may make you more susceptible to developing the disorder.
• Infections: Some illnesses appear to trigger or aggravate fibromyalgia.
• Physical or emotional trauma: Fibromyalgia can sometimes be triggered by a physical trauma, such as a car accident. Psychological stress may also trigger the condition.
Treatment for fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia can be effectively treated and managed with medication and self-management strategies.
Treatments from medical providers often include combinations of medications (both over-the-counter and prescribed), self-care that includes aerobic exercise and stress-management techniques, hydrotherapy and chiropractic treatment, acupuncture and good sleeping habits. Occasionally, cognitive behavioral therapy is used to assist in managing underlying depression.
Anyone with fibromyalgia symptoms can inquire about the FM/a test by speaking with their medical provider and by going to http://www.thefmtest.com.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. Contact him at 970-328-5526 or visit http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns.