Fibromyalgia can affect every aspect of a person's life. While neither degenerative nor fatal, the chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia is pervasive and persistent. FMS can severely curtail social activity and recreation, and as many as 30% of those diagnosed with fibromyalgia are unable to maintain full-time employment. Like others with disabilities, individuals with FMS often need accommodations to fully participate in their education or remain active in their careers. Fibromyalgia is often referred to as an "invisible" illness or disability due to the fact that generally there are no outward indications of the illness or its resulting disabilities. The invisible nature of the illness, as well as its relative rarity and the lack of understanding about its pathology, often has psychosocial complications for those that have the syndrome. Individuals suffering from invisible illnesses in general often face disbelief or accusations of malingering or laziness from others that are unfamiliar with the syndrome.Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and multiple tender points. "Tender points" refers to tenderness that occurs in precise, localized areas, particularly in the neck, spine, shoulders, and hips. People with this syndrome may also experience sleep disturbances, morning stiffness, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, cognitive problems ("foggy mind")and other symptoms. Fibromyalgia: A chronic syndrome that causes pain and stiffness throughout the connective tissues that support and move the bones and joints. Pain and localized tender points occur in the muscles, particularly those that support the neck, spine, shoulders, and hip. The disorder includes widespread pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbances. Onset of FM:
These illnesses are different experiences for different people. Sometimes the illness hits quick and hard, in other cases it comes on slowly. There is no definitive test yet for the illness, so at best the diagnosis by process of elimination. Because of this and because the world has only really begun to take note of the illnesses in the past decade, many physicians haven't learned much about them, nor stayed up to date. This means the onset of the illness can be a trial in itself. Consider awaking one day in an otherwise good life to have the symptoms of a bad flu - aches, fatigue, depressed immune system, and a cognitive fog. You expect it to go away soon and may take a few days off work. Welcome to a chronic illness. This isn't going away. After a week you seek advice and for most patients this begins a process where many of the physicians you consult will tell you it's in your head, there's nothing wrong with you. What's the take-home message for your employer and family? That's when relationships with employers and family often begin to fall apart. This illness might be fair game for suspicion if only 10,000 had it, but 1,000,000 - 1,500,000? Something very real is going on. Unfortunately this situation has led to most patients being misdiagnosed and given the wrong medication. A definitive test would change this situation, but more compassion is needed, and more education. Fighting loss of employment, the break-up of relationships, and facing disbelief from physicians is not the recommended situation for coping with FM & CFS. The onset of the illness is traumatic and can be depressing, which doesn't help. Imagine your life suddenly changing like this.