Following my long awaited Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis, I received another daunting sentence, fibromyalgia. I don’t discuss fibromyalgia on my blog as much as I do RA, and the reason is that sometimes, I am not sure what I am dealing with.
There is a lengthy list of symptoms for fibromyalgia and the skepticism of the existence of the condition leaves doctors and their patients puzzled.
My list of symptoms is quite lengthy and the fact that I suffer from two different, yet similar conditions, leaves me puzzled. I have had fibromyalgia symptoms for as long as I can remember and as you can see from my blog, there are so many versions that I have written down about the symptoms of both the conditions I suffer from. It seems like I have been a stronger advocate for RA and I have not paid attention to FMS. It is hard to understand and write about a condition that causes so much havoc in your life. More often than not, it is fibromyalgia that wakes me up at night screaming “I am so sick and I don’t know why.”
I can’t separate this notion that my RA is stronger and more powerful than my FMS when in fact, the opposite may be true. I find that my joints scream louder than do my muscles and perhaps, that is the reason why I speak louder about RA. For whatever reason – maybe it is embarrassment of the symptoms or maybe RA does in fact speaker louder in terms of pain – but the sweating, the weight gain, cravings for chocolate and carbs, the headaches and the migraines, delayed reactions to stress and physical exertion, morning stiffness, muscle twitches, allergies, post nasal drip,nosebleeds, runny nose, shortness of breath, earaches, extreme fatigue no matter how much I sleep, teeth grinding, menstrual problems I have had since I was a teen, constant bloating and nausea, cognitive issues – difficultly speaking known words, loss of ability at times to distinguish colors and objects, short term memory impairment, confusion, trouble concentrating, and the brain fog.
The problem with this laundry list of symptoms is that they overlap with Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. While the pain is real and people like you and me struggle, the medical community’s debate about the existence of Fibromyalgia continues.
Fibromyalgia is a term that meets with a lot of skepticism in the medical community. To many doctors, it conjures up images of fussy, self-absorbed women with untreated psychological issues. Karen Uhlenhuth, 2003. (Apparently, the pain that people feel, primarily women is all in their heads and this comment was made in 2003, and here we are in 2010, still wondering whether FMS is still in our heads.)
Critics say there is no reason to recognize FMS as a disease. The fact is there is not enough understanding about FMS and the combination and overlapping symptoms leave even the medical community confused. To further infuriate the debate, in 2007, Pfizer launched Lyrica, the first drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat fibromyalgia.
Meanwhile, millions of people suffer in silence while the medical community debates the existence of FMS. The pain of patients isn’t taken seriously. You can diagnose a person, but at the same time, you tell them there is not a thing you can do to treat them. The skepticism for FMS comes from the fact that there is no cause for FMS and second, there is no way of confirming a diagnosis. With Lyrica being the only drug to treat FMS (Cymbalta is anti-depressant), it’s cost leaves many patients (including myself) weary.
People with FMS need strong advocacy and this whole notion that somehow FMS is not a disease needs to end. There are a lot of people who suffer in silence when it comes to chronic pain and the limited answers aren’t enough. I struggle with FMS everyday of my life, in addition to RA, and I don’t know what the answers are. I blog about my conditions because I figure this is as loud as I can scream for advocacy (and if you want, I will shout for you too).
I WANT ANSWERS AND I WANT A CURE. I DON’T WANT MY CHILDREN TO GO THROUGH WHAT I GO THROUGH ON A DAILY BASIS. I WANT TO BE NORMAL AND I WANT TO BE A GOOD MOTHER, AND SOMEHOW, CHRONIC PAIN (RA AND FMS) LIMITS ME.
This photo comes from Dr. Rodger Murphree’s Health News website from a post titled “Are Fibromyalgia Patients Crazy?” from March 2007.