Today, it is the 12th of May, and it is National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. You guessed it: a day to shine a bright light on the condition and celebrate how much great work has been done over the years. Fibromyalgia (or Fibro) affects millions of people around the globe and is often misdiagnosed, mistreated or often ignored.
Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes pain across the body, and the cause is still unknown. Many Fibro sufferers experience extreme tiredness, sensitivity to pain, muscle stiffness, IBS, headaches, sleep disruption and cognitive disruption (brain fog, memory and concentration).
There is no known cure or reliable treatment for Fibro, however, often doctors will prescribe anti-depressants, therapy and promote lifestyle changes. In the Fibro community, many are turning to CBD.
So to celebrate Fibromyalgia Awareness Day we are going to talk about 10 things you should know about Fibro!
The Symbols of Fibro Awareness
Let’s start off with something fundamental; the symbols of awareness. We wanted to start with this because if you see a symbol then you will know what it is. More often the symbols are in the colour purple and can be ribbons and butterflies.
It is very likely that on the run-up to Fibromyalgia day you have seen an increase in people wearing purple ribons, or companies adding it to their marketing campaigns.
When you see it now, you will know what it means!
Fibro Is More Common for Females
It may come as a surprise that Fibro affects women significantly more than it does men. While some studies show that women are 7 times more likely to suffer from Fibro, the peer reviewed figures are closer to women being twice as likely. Which is still significant. It is thought that the reason for this disparity is down to hormonal changes; which include menstruation, menopause, pregnancy and stress.
There is still not a sure and fast rule around the cause of Fibro so there is still a lot to learn about what causes the condition.
How is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?
It may not come as a surprise that Fibro is difficult to diagnose – and is often overlooked as something else. Many of the classic signs can be put down to other issues such as hormonal changes during menstruation, stress or something else. Often the separate symptoms are diagnosed, but not together.
The way many consultants identify Fibro is by ruling out other similar conditions via a blood test. They look for Thyroid function, vitamin D levels, erythrocyte sedimentation rates, Cyclic citrullinated peptide tests and Rheumatoid factors.
To be diagnosed, you may also be asked to accurately record your pain. If you experience pain throughout your body and it has continued for more than three months, then you should consult a medical professional.
Fibro doesn’t just affect one type of person
There is a perception that Fibro only affects middle-aged women, of certain demographics. But this isn’t necessarily true. Yes, middle-aged women do suffer from this condition more commonly, but the condition is also common in children, teenagers and people of all genders.
Fibro is not phycological
There is somewhat a perception that fibromyalgia is a neurological or psychological condition, and the pain sufferers are experiencing is not ‘real’. This is a misconception as the condition can be triggered by physical factors, as well as mental factors.
The misconception comes from the reality of the condition; it can be triggered by mental conditions. For example, stress, depression or something else may trigger a fibro flare-up. Or could it be that most people who suffer from Fibromyalgia disproportionally suffer from mental health conditions too? The question is which comes first.
The fact is that fibromyalgia causes real measurable biological changes which result in pain and physical illness. Research is finding that there are markers of Fibro which include low levels of a hormone called somatomedin and muscle-cell chemicals such as adenosine and phosphocreatine. Plus, an increase in levels of neurotransmitters such as ‘substance P.
Other research has found immune system response and cytokine disruption within sufferers of Fibro. The Cytokine system is partly responsible for our bodies reaction to an infection causing inflammation, cell destruction and more.
Treatments for Fibro
Again, there seems to be nothing hard and fast in the treatment of Fibromyalgia, which seems to also be causing an epidemic of mental health issues with sufferers. While many are prescribed anti-depressant medication and therapy, the root cause of the condition is not tackled.
The most effective way to deal with Fibro is to combat the root cause and manage the condition with a variety of medications and lifestyle changes. This includes removing causes of stress, an improved diet and regular exercise.
There is also an underground movement of Fibromyalgia sufferers seeking out natural alternatives, such as Cannabis. CBD is anecdotally seen as a particularly effective natural alternative to medication as it seems to soothe the mental and physical symptoms of the condition. This has not been backed by science but is clearly a popular choice in the fibro community.
Why Is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day Important?
If you’ve made it this far into the blog post then I am sure that you already know; there are so many unknowns with Fibromyalgia. Not only is the condition not understood fully in the medical community, but many people do not understand the plights of sufferers at all. That include work colleagues, bosses, family and friends. It can be hard trying to explain yourself all the time.
Fibro awareness day is important for those who suffer in silence.
Whether you are a fibro sufferer yourself, or you know somebody who also suffers from fibro, raising awareness can help them in a whole suite of ways. It can help provide funding for research, advancements in treatments and enables them to live their lives without explaining themselves repeatedly.