Fibromyalgia is an extremely complicated disease that causes persistent and widespread pain in men and women. In both the US and Canada, it is estimated that approximately 2% of adults are suffering from this condition. Fibromyalgia disproportionately affects women, as 80% to 90% of fibromyalgia patients are women. Although most people suffering from fibromyalgia are between the ages of 20 and 50, the condition can also affect teenagers and children.
Fibromyalgia is complicated because, in many instances, there is no real cause behind the condition. Symptoms just show up unannounced and with no underlying reason. In addition, doctors have trouble diagnosing the condition, so many patients suffer for weeks or months with no idea why.
Symptoms of this condition vary from one person to the next, and changes on an hourly or daily basis. But overall, this condition causes full-body pains and fatigue, to the point of exhaustion, frustration, depression, and loss of meaning in life.
Below are 10 ways in which fibromyalgia impacts daily living based on responses from current fibromyalgia patients.
With fibromyalgia, patients need to carefully balance out their daily activities and pay attention to how much energy is expended every day. Imagine an average person with a daily to-do list of 10 items. With fibromyalgia, you may only be able to accomplish 4 of these tasks before running out of energy. If fibromyalgia patients overexert themselves on any single day, they may not have any energy for the next 2-3 days.
Imagine staying up for 48 hours without any sleep, then trying to read the most boring book you can think of. This type of fatigue is felt regularly by fibromyalgia patients because good sleep is almost non-existent. People suffering from fibromyalgia are in constant pain, even during sleep, which makes it difficult for them to obtain quality, deep sleep on a consistent basis.
Since fibromyalgia affects the central nervous system, the body’s sensitivity to pain is amplified. Patients often describe the sensation of an electrical shooting pain that occurs constantly through the day. This type of pain is said to show up randomly, affecting patients during work, meetings and dinner outings. Over time, this becomes a major inconvenience, particularly when the shocking pains show up in the middle of an important event.
When pain symptoms temporarily increase in number or intensity, it is called a flare or flare-up. With fibromyalgia, you never know when you will have a flare day. Flares make it impossible to commute to work and sit at a desk all day. Fibromyalgia patients call in sick twice a month due to flares. Sometimes for 2-3 days consecutively. This puts a significant toll on their employment relationships, reduces career advancement opportunities and can even result in termination.
Despite advancements in our medical diagnostic systems, fibromyalgia remains a mysterious disease. People can’t seem to figure out why it occurs or how it can be treated. Many doctors are still unfamiliar with the condition that getting a proper diagnosis can take weeks or even months. Patients are frequently told by the doctor that there’s nothing wrong with them and are sent home without a referral or suggestion of how to get a proper diagnosis.
People with fibromyalgia experience extreme muscle soreness, particularly in the mornings. Imagine running a full marathon without any training or practice, the soreness you may feel the next morning is what fibromyalgia patients feel most mornings. That same sore feeling continues throughout most of the day, with or without pain medication.
With fibromyalgia, the body loses its ability to regulate temperature normally. Patients are usually freezing in the winter, and overheating in the summer. There’s never a happy medium for fibromyalgia patients.
In the morning you felt great and decided to make dinner plans with your friend. By the evening, however, you are feeling horrible and in so much pain that you cannot stand up properly. You cancel on your friend for the fifth time this month. Even though friends and family know about your condition, they can’t fully understand how you feel. After several broken promises, some friends and families will stop making plans with you. This is, unfortunately, the reality for so many fibromyalgia patients.
Fibromyalgia patients find themselves spending a lot of time alone. During weeknights, weekends or even long weekends and holidays. When pain becomes too difficult to bear, staying home alone with pets can be the only viable option. Pets don’t judge, are entertaining to be around, and reminds you that you’re not alone.
One of the most debilitating symptoms of fibro is known as “fibro fog.” Patients describe this as living in a “fog of confusion”, where they forget even the most basic parts of their daily lives. At work, they may forget deadlines by a few weeks or suddenly leave meetings halfway through without any explanation. At home, they may leave their keys in the fridge or forget what year it is. Everything becomes so disoriented that they may even forget how to get home.