Living with fibromyalgia is difficult. I was diagnosed in 2010 and have been writing about life with fibromyalgia since. Over the years I’ve seen many questions about fibromyalgia from everyone… ranging from those who just know someone with fibromyalgia, to those living with it. Below are some of the most common questions about fibromyalgia.
Is fibromyalgia real?
The short answer is yes fibromyalgia is very real.
It’s hard to believe that this is still a question, but it is. Sadly, even some doctors doubt the validity of a fibromyalgia diagnosis. However, the numbers of those who doubt that fibromyalgia is real are, thankfully, shrinking.
The doubt comes from the fact that unlike most other chronic illnesses there are no widely accepted blood or imaging diagnostic tests. At this time, fibromyalgia is still considered a syndrome – a collection of symptoms.
How do you get tested for fibromyalgia?
While there is a blood test for fibromyalgia that is covered by some insurance companies. It is not widely recognized and many doubt the validity of the test.
How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?
At this time, fibromyalgia is diagnosed by first ruling out other potential causes for the symptoms. This is typically done by performing a panel of blood tests and (sometimes but not always) imaging tests.
After other causes have been ruled out a doctor will make a diagnosis based on the total symptom package.
What causes fibromyalgia?
The cause of fibromyalgia is still currently unknown.
Some believe that fibromyalgia is an autoimmune illness and as such it is most commonly treated by a rheumatologist. However, studies have not found this to be true. Studies do seem to indicate that it may be neurological (based in the nerves) and as such more neurologists are beginning to treat fibromyalgia.
There have been links between trauma and onset of fibromyalgia. Trauma can include physical or mental trauma (anything form a severe illness, to the death of a loved one, or even a car accident). One study found that adults with neck injuries were 10 times more likely to develop fibromyalgia in the following year. There are also hypotheses linking fibromyalgia and PTSD due to the overlap in symptoms. While the link between trauma and fibromyalgia has been demonstrated repeatedly, it is still highly debated if there is a cause and effect situation occurring or if they are simply linked.
Similarly, fibromyalgia has been largely linked to stress, both physical and mental. Some (including Dr. Bill Rawls) believe that that can include the stress placed on the body by the foods we eat. He purports (and I agree based on personal experience) that controlling those stresses (including changing the diet to decrease digestive-related stress and to increase healthful foods) can decrease fibromyalgia symptoms and aid in potential recovery.
How do you get fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is not contagious. However, there is some indication that it may be hereditary or genetic. If others in your family have fibromyalgia your risk is higher.
What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?
The primary symptoms of fibromyalgia are chronic widespread pain and fatigue. Widespread pain is pain that exists across all four quadrants of the body (draw two lines at your belly button – one horizontal and one vertical). Chronic means that these symptoms have lasted for at least 3 months.
What are the first signs of fibromyalgia?
Many find that when they look back they noticed the first signs of fibromyalgia years before the illness reached a point that required treatment. These signs often include being more fatigued than others, often feeling as if they have the flu, and sleep issues.
What’s the average of age for fibromyalgia?
Most people are diagnosed with fibromyalgia during their 30’s or 40’s. However, generally symptoms began years prior.
Does fibromyalgia get worse with age?
While some do find that their symptoms worsen over time, most find that they reach a plateau and/or improve with time. There are many reasons for this that may involve increased stress due to life circumstances and differences in coping methods and treatments.
Who is at risk for fibromyalgia?
Women are more likely to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Currently only about 10% of those diagnosed with fibromyalgia are men. However, those numbers are growing.
You are more likely to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia if someone in your family also has fibromyalgia.
Does fibromyalgia go away?
There is no known cure for fibromyalgia. However, many have found ways to improve or even alleviate their symptoms.
What is the treatment for fibromyalgia?
Doctors typically treat fibromyalgia with a combination of muscle relaxers, anti-depressants, and nerve medications. The anti-depressants and nerve medications work similarly in that they change the way your brain interprets signals from the nerves.
Most find a holistic therapy most helpful. This would combine pharmaceutical medications with supplements, diet and lifestyle changes.
Can you treat fibromyalgia naturally?
Yes. You can treat fibromyalgia without pharmaceutical medications and many do. However, if you start off with prescription medications it can be very difficult to discontinue those medications later (as your body may develop a dependence).
Many successfully treat fibromyalgia with supplements combined with diet and lifestyle changes.
How does fibromyalgia feel?
The most common description of fibromyalgia is that it feels like having flu that never goes away. That same level of body aches and fatigue.
Is fibromyalgia fatal?
No. Fibromyalgia is not fatal. At this time there is no known disease attached to fibromyalgia, nor any other reason that it would lead to death.
However, it does often end life as you know it. While fibromyalgia is not directly fatal, there is an increased risk of suicide among those with fibromyalgia. This increased risk of suicide may come from several reasons.
Depression is common among those who suffer from chronic pain. Severe depression can lead to suicide for those who feel they no longer have any reason to live. The feeling that you no longer have reason to live can come from a feeling that your life has been stripped from you and that you no longer have a purpose.
Unfortunately, many of the medications used to treat both depression and fibromyalgia also come with increased risks of suicide.
If you suffer from depression and have suicidal thoughts or feelings, please speak to someone and seek help. Something as simple as a change in medication can help. I’ve been there and I promise there is help and hope.
What are your questions about fibromyalgia?
What other questions do you have about fibromyalgia? Ask them in the comments below and I’ll add the answers to this post.