Fibromyalgia (also known as FM or FMS) is an invisible disease. Its symptoms aren't readily evident to the casual observer. In fact they're often not picked up on by family members, friends or co-workers.
Unless the person with fibromyalgia misses work a lot, or turns down requests to volunteer or help out with things. This can cause misunderstandings that are hard for the ill person to bear. People unfamiliar with FM may make some negative assumptions about them.
Maybe they're selfish. Maybe they're lazy. Maybe they just aren't smart or socially adept.
The medical community assumes that if tests don't show evidence of disease that they can recognize, there is none. Which would mean the person complaining is either a liar, a whiner or psychologically disturbed. Or maybe all three.
Fortunately, this last assumption is not quite as common as it used to be. Mention of fibromyalgia no longer automatically elicits a cold shoulder, or an unbelieving shrug. FMS research has begun to catch the attention of the medical community.
Still invisible, but perhaps not so disrespected. And that's a welcome change for those already challenged to the max by the state of their health.
Fibromyalgia is considered a syndrome. That is to say, it's a number of signs and symptoms that cluster together, though the specific cause hasn't yet been identified. A disease on the other hand has a specific known cause with associated signs and symptoms.
Fibromyalgia is believed to affect about 2 percent of the population of the U.S. The numbers may be much higher, since acceptance of FMS as a true medical condition is so new and it is only recently being taken seriously.
Fibromyalgia has a neurophysiologic basis, and is now considered a central sensitivity syndrome (CSS) with abnormal pain processing of the central nervous system. Chronic pain is its flagship. Its trifecta is pain, fatigue and disrupted sleep. Other symptoms can run the gamut from numbness or tingling, to cognitive problems, to digestive issues, to sensitivity to light, sound and temperature, and beyond.