Don't take this stress-induced illness affecting women lightly

Fibromyalgia is diagnosed on the basis of various parameters to determine the level of pain.

Working women often handle stress at home and workplace with ease. However, after some time, the pressure would take its toll and many of them might develop physical ailments like pain. When they take up the matter with family members, the women more often than not face neglect.

Fibromyalgia is a major lifestyle disease affecting women in such a situation. Women feeling isolated and those who develop a thought that they are unwanted also are susceptible to this disease.

Symptoms of fibromyalgia

1) Pain in several parts of the body

2) Severe pain when a part of the body is pressed

3) Persistent lack of energy

4) Severe fatigue

5) Sleeplessness

The central nervous system of fibromyalgia patients fail to read the signals of pain properly. As a result, even a small pain may be sensed as a severe one. However, as the cause of the disease is yet to be proved scientifically, fibromyalgia cannot be detected in a single examination. So, doctors often do not make a quick diagnosis.

Long period of sleeplessness also causes pain. Conversely, severe pain is the cause of sleeplessness. Regular lack of sleep can lead to pain even in healthy persons. For instance, once a patient approached a doctor complaining of severe pain in the joints and shoulders. As her arthritic factor was normal, the doctor asked her about her personal life. “I am a jobless person; I have nothing to do,” she repeated.

While her children were at a boarding school, Mumtaz’s husband worked abroad. She regularly heard over phone statements like, “You have nothing to do; you are a good-for-nothing person.”

When the patient narrated the incidents to the doctor, she expressed no emotion. But when questioned more deeply, her lack of self-confidence and anxiety came to the fore. As she had no work to do at home, Mumtaz tried to sleep during daytime also. But sleep evaded her. The pain was felt during this time.

Lack of sleep affects the pathway in the body that transmits the feeling of pain. Moreover, it damages the natural analgesic mechanism. As a result, fibromyalgia patients fail to control the signal of pain. This leads to a severe feeling of pain and also conditions affecting the central nervous system such as depression and stress.

Fibromyalgia is diagnosed on the basis of various parameters to determine the level of pain. A doctor would examine whether the patient feels pain at around 20 points on the body like the shoulders, arms, waist, legs and jaws and prepares a score, based on which the diagnosis is made. Patients complaining of pain in these parts of the body are also checked for thyroid problems and arthritis. People suffering from arthritis need to start treatment before the condition worsens.

Meanwhile, sleep problems and breathlessness felt during sleep have to be treated. Obesity, smoking, depression and situations causing stress have to be addressed. In other words, treatment of fibromyalgia varies from patient to patient.

Along with orthopaedician, the services of a pain management specialist are also needed. Cognitive behavioural therapy may have to be resorted to control severe pain. Psychologists who have undergone special training and physiotherapists are also involved in the treatment of fibromyalgia. In rare cases, pain killers will be effective. On the sidelines, treatment for depression and mood disorders is carried out in some patients.

Fibromyalgia patients are advised to include plenty of food items rich in antioxidants. As obesity is one of the major causes of the disease, people having excess weight need to launch efforts to shed the extra flab.

Support groups

Often, close relatives, friends or even doctors may fail to recognize the intensity of pain and stress experienced by fibromyalgia patients. This may lead many of these patients into depression. However, by joining support groups that meet under the supervision of expert psychologists, the patients can get much relief.

(Facts courtesy: Dr Arun Oommen, Consultant brain and spine surgeon, VPS Lakeshore Hospital, Kochi)

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