Affecting an estimated 1 in 25 people Fibromyalgia or Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is a long term condition that causes widespread pain all over the body. Symptoms such as muscle stiffness, fatigue, disturbed cognitive functionality, headaches and sleep problems along with Irritable Bowel Syndrome leave the sufferer feeling overwhelmed.
The exact cause of Fibromyalgia is not known, but 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 - process pain messages. Research shows that people with Fibromyalgia have abnormally low levels of serotonin, noradrenalin and dopamine in their brains. Low levels of these hormones effect the way the body regulates things such as mood, appetite, sleep behavior and responses to stressful situations.
Being diagnosed can be a lengthy process with many of the symptoms also appearing under other illnesses such as Chronic Fatigue (ME). Other conditions such as Rheumatoid and Osteoarthritis, and MS also need to be ruled out. FM sufferers may also be diagnosed with depression, anxiety and IBS. Typically it hits between the ages of 30 - 50 and women are 7 times more likely to be taken with the condition than men, although these statistics are not exclusive. It is still largely unclear how Fibromyalgia manifests itself. However, there is a belief that the condition can be triggered by physical, emotional or stressful events; things such as an injury, the breakdown of a relationship or bereavement.
It is a condition that has stayed out of the mainstream health language and in general people have either never heard of it or know very little about it. This can be difficult for the sufferer for whom it is not always obvious that they have the illness. Day to day living is impaired and medication is often a complicated mix of drugs that go a small way to managing the sensitivity to pain. Often the drugs will need to be backed up with talking therapies and physical therapies. The patient will also need to make some lifestyle changes such as including some relaxation techniques.
Dealing with the everyday life can be very challenging for someone with FM. Walking up just a few stairs, pushing a shopping trolley, lifting a box or carrying a child on a hip may be basic tasks but for a FM sufferer these are all things that are either painful, difficult or in some cases impossible. Although there are medications to make the condition and the pain manageable, for some the life they knew before Fibromyalgia will sadly remain a thing of the past. Aside from the physical limitations that the condition brings there is also what has been dubbed 'fibro-fog'. This is where the person has cognitive problems relating to mental processes such as thinking ad learning. This can mean trouble remembering and learning new things. Problems with attention and concentration and it can even appear outwardly through slowed or confused speech.
We seem to live in an over burdened society where every corner has a cause. To some degree this has desensitised us to the people living next door or across the street who might need our help. For anyone who has an illness it's always hard getting others to understand how you feel or appreciate what struggles you face. With those suffering from Fibromyalgia the gap in understanding can feel more like a gulf, with so few having even heard of the illness. It doesn't compute that a thirty year old woman who is a sales manager might need her bin bringing in because her back is in so much pain that she can't pull it up her own garden path. This is the reality of an FM sufferer. A Fibromyalgia society page on facebook recently posted a quote that said; "If I woke in the morning and nothing hurt, I would think I was dead." Just one of the ways Fibromyalgia takes over the lives of those diagnosed with this consuming condition. #Medicine