Fibromyalgia – key facts
Wednesday 3rd September
Fibromyalgia is a medical condition that refuses to be categorised. Fibromyalgia is more common than Rheumatoid arthritis, yet our understanding and awareness of the condition is limited.
While millions of people in the UK alone struggle with this life altering condition, millions more may have never even heard of it. With UK National Fibromyalgia Awareness Week approaching (Saturday the 6th- Sunday the 14th of September), now is the ideal time for us to explore the causes, symptoms and possible treatments of Fibromyalgia.
So what exactly is Fibromyalgia? This question is perhaps not as straightforward to answer as it seems.
Sufferers experience both chronic physical pain throughout much of the body, as well as psychological stress; intense fatigue and even cognitive dysfunction are not uncommon. It’s wide and diverse array of symptoms make it difficult to diagnose, and many sufferers may not even be aware that they have it. Read on to raise your own awareness; perhaps you’ll finally be able to put a name to your own, or a loved one’s, symptoms.
What is Fibromyalgia, and what causes it?
Fibro- Fibrous tissues (Tendons/ ligaments)
Fibromyalgia, commonly abbreviated to “Fibro”, or simply “FM”, is a chronic condition that is very difficult to define. Many of its symptoms are shared with a variety of other conditions, so it is perhaps not surprising that FM is particularly difficult to diagnose. In fact, many sufferers may be unaware that they have the condition, or may have been misdiagnosed with another problem. The causes too, in particular cases, are wide ranging and uncertain. According to the NHS overview of the condition, it is “thought to be related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain and changes in the way the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves) processes pain messages carried around the body.” Some evidence suggests that the illness is genetic. Additionally, both physical (childbirth, an injury or operation) and psychological/ emotional (the death of a loved one, the break-up of a relationship) triggers are thought to be accountable. Even the name, Fibromyalgia, has been called into question as it may not accurately reflect the true nature of the illness (it has been previously known as Fibrositis and Muscular Rheumatism, amongst others). What is clear is that much more research is required to allow doctors to more accurately and efficiently diagnose FM, to clear away the misconceptions surrounding it and, ultimately, to help its sufferers get the much needed help they require sooner. By taking a look at some of the symptoms of FM, we can get a greater sense of just how urgently this help is needed.
- Main symptoms include widespread pain and chronic fatigue
- NHS estimates that as many as 1 in 20 people in the UK suffer from Fibromyalgia
- Fibromyalgia is more common than Rheumatoid arthritis
- Wide range of symptoms means many cases go undiagnosed
- An estimated seven times more women than men suffer from the condition
- Most patients are diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 50 years old (though it can affect people of any age)
- Pain management and a healthy lifestyle are the best ways to combat the symptoms
Check back for our article, Fibromyalgia: the symptoms, where we will explore some of the symptoms of Fibromyalgia, and try to understand the impact these symptoms have on the lives of those suffering from them.
If you feel that you are suffering from the symptoms of Fibromyalgia, please contact your GP.
If you are already a member of benenden health, and have any concerns regarding Fibromyalgia or its’ symptoms, you could call our 24/7 GP advice line on 0800 414 8247.