Today I Feel:: Better

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2003-09-01 @ 12:45 p.m.
I have Fibromyalgia and This is what it is!!

Having Fibromyalgia really sucks. Well, any chronic illness I suppose. But it's alway so hard to explaplain to people. Why do you look just fine when you say your ill? This time I was lucky to find a slot open with my doctor. I hate it if I have to go to the ER. I always think I should be bleeding. Like just before I walk it I should run my head into a wall. It won't really hurt any worse than the rest of me does at the moment anyway. If any one really does read this whole article (and it is readable)-well, this is why sometimes it takes a few days to get another posting from me. Now if only Santa would bring me a laptop I could write from bed. Oh!Yeah! I'm Santa, and I think I will be paying bills this year. Oh well. It was a nice mommentary wish.

Ok, Here are the facts according to the medical journals.

Fibromyalgia (FM) Fact Sheet

What is Fibromyalgia?

FM is a chronic, widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue disorder for which the cause is unknown. Fibromyalgia means pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons of the fibrous tissues in the body. In addition to pain and fatigue, other symptoms include unrefreshed sleep (likely due to a number of sleep anomalies,) irritable bowel, chronic headaches, morning stiffness, cognitive or memory impairments, reduced coordination and decreased endurance. In 1990, the American College of Rheumatology established a Multicenter Criteria Committee, to develop the "Criteria for the Classification of Fibromyalgia," which established the diagnostic criteria for FM. Current research is exploring a variety of areas that might lead to a better understanding of FM. One of the more popular thoughts is that FM is a disorder of central processing with neuroendocrine/neurotransmitter dysregulation. The FM patient experiences pain amplification due to abnormal sensory processing in the central nervous system.

Who is affected by this illness?

Statistics show that 3 to 6 percent of the American population have symptoms that point to Fibromyalgia. (1) It is estimated anywhere from six to twelve million people suffer from the devastating effects of this illness. Seventy five percent of suffers are woman. The illness usually affects women of child bearing years, often times striking when a person is in their 20's or 30's. It can however, affect people of all ages.

What are the symptoms of FM?

Although pain and fatigue are the two major symptoms of FM, other symptoms vary from individual to individual. They include: Muscular Pain: 100% Fatigue: 96% Insomnia: 86% Joint Pain: 72% Headaches: 60% Restless Legs: 56% Numbness and Tingling: 52% Impaired Memory: 46% Leg Cramps: 42% Impaired Concentration: 41% Nervousness: 32% Major Depression: 20% (2). Recent research has found the following anomalies:

Spinal fluid Substance P levels are elevated threefold in FM patients.

Spinal fluid levels of nerve growth factor (NGF) are elevated fourfold in FM patients.

Brain imaging has turned up significant abnormalities using SPECT scanning which measures cerebral blood flow. This showed reduced blood flow to the thalamus region of the brain (where pain processing takes place,) in FM patients.

How is FM diagnosed?

It takes the average person five years and thousands of dollars in medical bills just to receive a diagnosis-all because few physicians possess the education to diagnose and treat FM. (3) For many patients their doctors were unable to diagnose their problem because most laboratory tests prove negative. Doctors still often incorrectly tell patients that the pain is "in their head." Another diagnostic problem, is that FM symptoms are common in other conditions�Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Lupus, hypothyroidism and parathyroidism. In 1990, the newly established diagnostic criteria for FM stated that a patient had to have a history of widespread pain for at least three months and pain in at least 11 of the 18 specifically located tender points. These along with other symptoms help distinguish FM from other conditions.

How is FM treated?

There is no cure for FM. Current treatments vary from patient to patient, but normally work toward improving sleep and eliminating pain. Since many body functions depend on deep level (stage 4) sleep and many people with FM do not achieve this, the sleep problems greatly contribute to the symptoms of the illness. During deep sleep the body produces antibodies, repairs tissues, and possibly regulates various neurotransmitters, hormones and immune system chemicals. Doctors recommend: low doses of medicines that increase levels of serotonin and norepinephrine (neurotransmitters that regulate sleep, pain and immune system function), pain medications, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, trigger point injections with lidocaine, physical therapy, acupuncture & acupressure, relaxation techniques and gentle exercise.

What causes FM?

The cause of FM is still a mystery. The onset however, is often triggered by a traumatic shock to the system�a bad infection, car accident, surgery, emotional trauma, etc. It is thought that the trigger does not cause the illness, but may awaken an underlying physiological abnormality that is present in the patient's body. Theories on what these "abnormalities" could be include: alterations in neurotransmitter regulation, disordered sensory processing, problems with immune system function and hormone control. Research is currently using new brain imaging techniques to explore brain function. Gene researchers feel certain that they will discover a "FM gene" in the near future. Most clinicians believe that FM has a genetic predisposition.

What problems do FM suffers face?

Since the onset of FM can be abrupt, a person's life can be virtually and completely altered in a very short period of time. The majority of FM suffers are physically active, high achievers who live very productive lives. From the onset of the illness, the pain and fatigue impair a person from living the life they are accustomed to. Many FM patients have to stop working, quit doing physical activities and even become socially isolated. At times, the pain and fatigue can place a person in bed unable to function. The emotional ramifications are many. Getting a diagnosis can be difficult, so that causes a reaction of great fear and frustration. Many patients are made to feel like "it's their fault," which undermines their self-confidence and overall attitude. People do not like being around a person who is chronically ill, so many lose the support of friends and family. Because of the lack of information about this disease, most patients are unable to get any kind of disability. Supporting one's self becomes a major concern. Learning to live with chronic symptoms like constant pain, ringing in your ears, muscle spasms, concentration problems, and insomnia can be overwhelming. A sufferer of FM has to learn a completely new way of life.

How do FM suffers deal with chronic pain?

Like any illness, which has the component of pain, although some pain medications do help, the major aspects of dealing have to be personal. Learning to accept and live with the pain that exists. People with FM often try the following: Biofeedback, meditation, yoga, relaxation, aromatherapy, massage and gentle exercise.

What are the myths about this illness?

The myths about FM are many! They include the following: It is a psychological not a physical illness (it is all in your head)�. all FM patients are depressed�this illness is the patients fault, it's not a real disease�you are a weak person if you can't deal with this illness�if you stop dwelling on your symptoms they'll go away�women have a hard time dealing with getting older, they have to learn that aches and pains are going to happen as they age�if you lose weight and exercise you'll be fine�and the myths go on and on!

Why is education so important?

In order for patients to be able to receive proper diagnosis and treatment, maybe even be cured, both the public and medical community need to learn more about this devastating disease. Awareness will eliminate the myths, improve patient support and encourage research. FM patients often times need financial assistance in the form of disability. Judges need to be made aware that this is a true illness that can leave a person disabled. Like any other group of people afflicted with a chronic illness, we deserve the same treatment and rights. Education is the key to accomplish this goal.

What is being done to find a cure?

Currently there are very few dollars being allocated to find a cure for FM. Many theories exist, but research dollars are needed to explore these theories. Efforts are being made to encourage Congress to increase the NIH budget to accommodate the growing needs for FM research. The truth however, is that the seven million dollars budgeted by the federal government for FM research in the year 2001, will only scratch the surface. FM is the second most diagnosed rhuematological disease in our country today. Our goal to insure that research funding is increased will only be meet if the FM Community can create a voice, powerful enough to invoke attention and assure change.


� NFAC 2001

(1) Dr. Geetha Reddy, Rheumatologist, University of Missouri Health Sciences Center.

(2) According to the National Fibromyalgia Research Association.

(3) Goldenberg, D., FMS: An Emerging but Controversial Syndrome, JAMA (p.2782), 1987.

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