Fibromyalgia: The Misunderstood Disease

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Research gives hope for new treatments, better understanding of chronic pain condition

Fourteen years ago, Josephine began to experience severe pain throughout her body. As her symptoms became worse, she sought help from a variety of specialists, but no one could diagnose her condition.

"I was told they didn't know what was wrong with me; the blood tests came back good, x-rays came back clear," she says. "They had no idea and they'd shuffle me to another doctor, another specialist." She saw rheumatologists, neurologists, internists, and blood specialists, but there was still no answer.

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After more than a year, she was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a chronic and debilitating condition that causes severe pain throughout the body. Ongoing research at the University of Michigan is demonstrating that fibromyalgia may affect millions of Americans, and research using sophisticated imaging techniques is helping the medical community better understand this disease.

"Fibromyalgia is a condition that's characterized by widespread pain involving the muscles, the joints, and in fact, any area of the body," explains Daniel Clauw, M.D., director of the U-M Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center. "In addition to pain, individuals with fibromyalgia often experience sleep fatigue, difficulties with sleep, and difficulties with memory and concentration, among other symptoms."

Josephine's symptoms included extreme fatigue, recurring headaches, chest pains, stomach and intestinal problems, muscle fatigue and weakness, restricted mobility, and anxiety. At her worst point, Josephine was bed-ridden and medicated to the point that she wasn't functioning due to the pain.

However, there is hope. "Fibromyalgia is gaining respect in both the scientific and the lay community because of all the research that's been conducted

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