Fibromyalgia: Myths and Facts

Having a healthy body and mind is indeed not an easy thing. Living in the modern world itself poses a challenge to a healthy and active lifestyle. However, there should be no excuse to take care of your health because health is something that should be taken seriously and maintained. A healthy life means a happier you. However, not everyone might be lucky to have a life without any physical pain and what is worse, some pain may be there throughout their lifetime. One of the diseases that often be misunderstood and affect a person greatly is fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a condition characterised by chronic widespread pain, unrefreshing sleep, physical exhaustion and cognitive difficulties. It occurs in all populations with an estimation of 2 to 4% in the general population. Fibromyalgia is a problem with the nervous system process pain leading a person to have heightened sensitivity to pain. Fibromyalgia is often a disease that is easily mistaken for other medical conditions, sometimes going on for long till the extent of debilitating a person’s life. However, despite being a serious medical condition, there are many myths that subdue the fact, making people suffering with fibromyalgia often be taken lightly and suffer in silence.

Myth: Fibromyalgia is not real.

Fact: Fibromyalgia is a real thing. It affects millions of people. It is chronic pain, a pain that lasts for a long time. Some may say fibromyalgia does not exist possible to the range of symptoms that is nonspecific and may be confused as other harmless medical conditions such as mental disorder. Some may even say fibromyalgia does not exist because the cause and the nature of the disease is not well understood. Fibromyalgia is a syndrome which means a set of symptoms. It is a disease that cannot be explained with other health conditions and symptoms complained by patients that meets predefined criteria for diagnosis fibromyalgia is enough to state a person with fibromyalgia.

Myth: “Tender points” are always a symptom of fibromyalgia.

Fact: The presence of 11 out of 18 tender points used to be part of diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia but it is not applicable anymore. This is because up to 20% people with fibromyalgia does not have tender points but still meets the predefined diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia such as symptoms that presents for at least 3 months, generalised pain in 4 out of 5 regions of the body and according to Widespread Pain Index Score (WPI) equal to or more than 7 with a Symptom Severity Scale (SSS) score equal to or more than 5/ WPI of 4 to 6 with SSS score of equal to or more than 9.

Myth: Fibromyalgia is a type of depression

Fact: Fibromyalgia may be called “masked depression” but not all people with fibromyalgia have depression. In fact, many people with depression do not have chronic pain or symptoms of fibromyalgia. It is understandable why depression and fibromyalgia may be confused as the two conditions may overlap due to genes or psychological traits underlying it. However, this does not translate to depression and fibromyalgia is the same thing.

Myth: Fibromyalgia is the same as small fibre neuropathy.

Fact: Small fibre neuropathy is associated with many chronic pain conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and postural tachycardia syndrome. However, small fibre pathology cannot be detected in all patients with fibromyalgia. Plus, the typical symptoms or sign of patients with small fibre neuropathy differs greatly from what can be found in patients with fibromyalgia.

Myth: Fibromyalgia only occurs in middle-aged women.

Fact: Fibromyalgia occurs in all ages although the majority of patients are aged 40 to 60 years old. Patients with fibromyalgia and do not have tender points, the female-to-male ratio is 1 to 2:1. This means that both men and women have the same risk for developing fibromyalgia. Risk for getting fibromyalgia is higher when a person has a history of rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and mood disorders such as depression or anxiety.

Myth: Fibromyalgia is a useless diagnosis.

Fact: Diagnosis of fibromyalgia is helpful especially when information regarding the disease such as the nature of the disease, planned treatments and what to expect. This will at least help patients with fibromyalgia to come to terms with what they are having and lessen the emotional distress caused by the disease.

Myth: Antidepressant is the best treatment for fibromyalgia.

Fact: Only a small number of people do benefit from antidepressants such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors, tricyclic and serotonin reuptake inhibitors. It is worth it for patients to be trying treatment using medication such as antidepressant but it is often accompanied with other treatments too such as psychotherapy, exercise, getting advice from sleep specialists and alternative treatment such as acupuncture. There is no cure for fibromyalgia but treatment aims to reduce symptoms and ensure patients are able to adapt or manage symptoms.

Myth: Fibromyalgia shortens a person’s life.

Fact: A person with fibromyalgia can live their daily life just like any other healthy person can. It does not cause a person to die early as the disease itself does not progress to something worse or become life-threatening. It is certainly not a disease that damages the joint, muscles or organs.

Also read – Dengue Prevention.

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