Fibro Facts, our newest series on Inspired Living with Fibromyalgia, is a series of illustrated facts about Fibromyalgia. The goal is to help increase awareness and understanding for the millions of people living with Fibromyalgia throughout the world and to help people recently diagnosed learn a bit more about Fibromyalgia!
Fibro Fact #8: Fibromyalgia Diagnosis includes a Process of Elimination
According to the updated guidelines (May 2010) by the American College of Rheumatogloy, a patient must not have another condition or disorder that explains the pain. Unfortunately, this is where the process of elimination comes in and also where a lot of time (average is 5 years to a diagnosis) can be involved in obtaining a diagnosis.
The updates to the diagnosis criteria for Fibromyalgia were created to address limitations in the original criteria. The original criteria of widespread pain in all 4 quadrants of the body AND at least 11 out of 18 tender points still stands, the new criteria simply provides a more systematic approach to symptoms to be monitored more efficiently and to determine the severity of the syndrome.
A good physician will eliminate other possible causes of pain, sleep disorders, and other symptoms before identifying Fibromyalgia as the problem, because it is simply good medical practice. No one wants to have the actual issue missed for a quick diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.
Ultimately, patients tend to find the process frustrating and time consuming, because they will literally be tested for other sources causing the fatigue, anything that might cause chronic muscle pain, actual sleep disturbances that may be causing the symptoms, and mood disorders.
The tests can range from blood tests, urine tests, X-rays, MRI’s, and more. Ultimately, hypothyroidism, infections, polymyalgia rheumatic, rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, Lyme disease and more need to be ruled out.
The most common misdiagnosis of Fibromyalgia, which most Fibromyalgia patients will be told they have at one point or another, is depression. The reason for this is that people with depression often have many overlapping conditions with Fibromyalgia including disturbed sleep patterns, depressed mood, and wide spread body pain.
Oh and in case it’s not confusing enough, a person CAN actually have Fibromyalgia and later develop depression as a result of the chronic pain impacting one’s life often very dramatically. Fibromyalgia can also overlap with rheumatoid arthritis and hypothyroidism and other issues.
Are you saying- say what? Did you just contradict yourself there? Well, yes, yes I did. And so will many doctors because it is downright confusing. Yes, some doctors will rule out conditions that you can actually have at the same time as Fibromyalgia (although typically they have a later onset) and others won’t rule them out. However, some of the other conditions are treatable so it is worth finding out for sure, because if you can reduce the pain for one condition, sometimes it will help reduce the pain all over your body.
Is it any wonder doctors are just as confused and frustrated with Fibromyalgia as we are?