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Fibromyalgia Explained

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An estimated six to 12 million Americans suffer from fibromyalgia, a chronic and debilitating condition marked by widespread pain and decreased physical functioning. What’s worse, many people who are living with fibromyalgia aren’t getting the help they need.

Dr. Philip Mease, Director of Rheumatology Research at the Swedish Medical Center and Clinical Professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, Washington, addresses some common questions about fibromyalgia, including the tell-tale signs and where you can turn if you have recently been diagnosed or think you may have fibromyalgia.

How do I know if I have fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia patients usually experience an array of symptoms, such as chronic widespread pain, tenderness, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and trouble keeping physically active. For those who suffer from fibromyalgia, these symptoms can come and go and move about the body.

Because there are no specific tests to make a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, and the symptoms overlap with many other conditions, your doctor may have difficulty recognizing it. It is believed that the problem is in the way that your central nervous system processes pain and other sensations, so it is not amenable to standard testing. The diagnosis is made based on your symptoms and a physical exam. If you think you might be experiencing the symptoms mentioned above, it’s important to describe what you’re feeling to your doctor in detail so he or she can diagnose your condition and help you get better.

I’m having a hard time discussing my symptoms with my doctor. What should I do?

If you suspect that you have fibromyalgia but you’re having a hard time explaining what you’re going through, be as descriptive as possible when talking to your doctor. Expressing your needs clearly and asking the right questions can help you get the best care possible. Try to be prepared by keeping notes of what you are experiencing and by writing down any questions you may have before your visit to the doctor’s office.

Bring a pen and paper to your appointment in case you think of more questions during your visit.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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