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Health & Fitness

Why fibromyalgia is often misdiagnosed and how to deal with it

A doctor in a lab. Fibromyalgia is a disease which has been misdiagnosed for a long time. FILE PHOTO | NMG
A doctor in a lab. Fibromyalgia is a disease which has been misdiagnosed for a long time. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Fibromyalgia is a disease which has been misdiagnosed for a long time. Patients often say that they feel pain all over the body.

Although symptoms vary from person to person, patients agree that they all have widespread pain. While the disease can affect anyone, Angira Wasena says that it mostly affects women aged between 20 and 45 years.

“When someone says they are in pain and it is felt in the entire body not many believe this and so most people think of it as psychological,” says Dr Wasena.

For years, doctors were unsure who even had this ailment, because there is no definitive test for it. Dr Wasena says that since fibromyalgia is a condition characterised by unexplained pain from head to toe and exhaustion, it is important to diagnose patients correctly.

“We usually use an established diagnostic criteria by the Association of Fibromyalgia in US,” he says.

According to the association, the most widely used guidelines involve checking for severe pain in three to six different areas of the body, or milder pain in seven or more different areas.

The extent of the pain may be assessed by applying gentle pressure to certain tender points across the body, where any pain is likely to be at its worst.

Dr Wasena says that one of the main reason they use this criteria is because of the close relationship between rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.

“It also causes pain in the joints and shares some symptoms with the condition, but arthritis affects the joints causing deformity while fibromyalgia is mainly in muscles all over the body,” he says.

The body is also examined for signs of other conditions such as swollen joints which may suggest arthritis rather than fibromyalgia.

Other illnesses that need to be ruled out include chronic fatigue syndrome, which causes long-term tiredness.

Dr Wasena says that patients are often give pain killers to deal with the excruciating pain felt throughout the body.

“If the pain persists we find ways of pain intervention like using Ketamine, we also encourage patients to go through counselling because many might fall into depression,” he says.

Since the disease varies in every patient, treatment also has to vary.

“No one treatment plan works for everyone and most people need a combination of strategies,” he says.

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