What is it and how is it detected?
This week Brett Newcomb and I are continuing our discussion of five sneaky things that your doctor probably won’t ask you about, but that you should watch out for. We are focusing on autoimmune disorders , fibromyalgia in particular. We are discussing the nature of fibromyalgia and the fact that it hurts people all over their muscles. It moves around, it is not located in the elbow, or the knee, or the joints. It hurts when you sit and when you sleep and when you work. It is hard to pinpoint and many doctors do not ask about it because they are focused on the symptoms that brought you in the office and they only have a six minute window to find out what you need and try to make a helpful intervention.
People who suffer from fibromyalgia usually begin to suffer from it around 38 years of age. Often they are mistakenly thought to have chronic fatigue. Fibromyalgia is an autoimmune disorder, the body attacks itself and the muscles become inflamed and swollen. They hurt. Chronic fatigue is a virus like the mono virus, Epstein- Barr. The initial symptom of both of them is extreme tiredness. Doctors often treat for the viral infection and the patient does not get better because that is not really the problem.
The pain from fibromyalgia moves around. It may be in your arm one day and in your thigh another, it could be in your chest or some other part of the body. It is not localized to just a joint. Chronic pain is a viral infection and there are drugs which help with fighting the viral infection. Fibromyalgia is different. Basically you are attacking your own muscles. They become inflamed and you are never without pain. Anti-inflammatories sometimes work a little but usually not a lot. Sometimes you can be given drugs to suppress your immune system and those will help reduce the pain, but if you suppress your immune system you become vulnerable to other illnesses.
We are spending time talking about these issues because the nature of office visits with your physician is changing. Due to insurance companies and Obamacare, it is becoming necessary for doctors to spend less and less time with individual patients. The average primary care visit is now just six minutes! Your doctor is interested and fully qualified, but may not have time to cover all the possibilities. The more you can help by being informed and prepared the better your care will be. If you know about things like the difference between chronic pain and fibromyalgia the more you can help your physician help you.
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