Being tired makes simple tasks difficult–like concentrating or walking up the stairs. But being chronically fatigued is especially frustrating. There is no respite–no way to escape the crippling exhaustion.
This consistent pain and constant fatigue makes spending time with others draining and can keep you from doing things you love. Unfortunately, these symptoms are often misunderstood even though they affect thousands of Americans.
The worst frustration of those who experience this unending fatigue is the lack of understanding. Friends, family members, and even some doctors often make them feel as though the pain is invented or inside their head. Those who are already suffering then begin to feel the additional pain of isolation. They may even begin to wonder if they are crazy and the pain is just all inside their head.
But it’s not.
And luckily, a group of doctors are working to change our understanding of fatigue.
From a syndrome to a disease
Previously known as chronic fatigue syndrome, a team of national health experts (including a Utah doctor) are working to classify these crippling symptoms as an official disease (fibromyalgia). Chronic fatigue and pain are on their way to being better understood and better diagnosed.
By naming these symptoms as an official disease, the medical community hopes it will encourage proper and timely diagnoses. More effective treatments can then be researched and applied. The public will also be better educated about chronic pain and fatigue as a disease, instead of ‘made up’ symptoms. Chronic symptoms can make it difficult to diagnose and treat, but it doesn’t always have to be this way. The committee hopes that by providing a new name and clear diagnostic criteria, it will help more patients find relief.
The pains of fibromyalgia: Heather’s story
Heather Jackson knows firsthand the frustration that chronic pain and fatigue causes. Diagnosed with fibromyalgia when she was just 14, Heather has suffered 20 years of chronic migraines, severe fatigue, as well as nerve and joint pain. Doctors and specialists couldn’t understand her symptoms and the pain she lived with every day.
Heather has learned to live with her disease, fatigue, and pain. Now married with 3 children, Heather knows she must take time to rest in the afternoon to keep up with the schedule of a young family. Much of the family’s time together is spent on or around their mother’s bed. Although fibromyalgia doesn’t currently have a cure, Heather said how wonderfully helpful it is to have people understand the symptoms she experiences. With a new disease that includes these symptoms, doctors will be able to understand what sort of pain and fatigue people with fibromyalgia (and other diseases) are feeling every day.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia
Because fibromyalgia is a disease, it should be diagnosed just like any other. This helps us find more consistent ways to identify and treat it. A medical workup, physical examination, and appropriate history are all important components to the diagnosis. Symptoms should exist for at least six months and include the following:
- inability to do activities you used to do before;
- feeling very fatigued after these activities;
- symptoms get worse after these activities (whether they be physical, mental, or emotional);
- feeling unrefreshed after sleeping.
For more information on these symptoms and treatments for fibromyalgia, visit www.iom.edu/mecfs. If you are wondering if your illness qualifies you for Social Security benefits, please visit us at Summit Disability Law Group. We would love to help you out.