FYBROMYALGIA AND MEN
We hear a lot about fybromyalgia and how most of the patients are women. This is true. In fact, it is usually referred to as a woman’s disease. However, there is that small percentage of patients that are men. Fybromyalgia is a disease that is characterized by chronic pain and fatigue. Of the 5 million or so people affected by this disorder, about 10 percent are men.
Because of this mindset that fybromyalgia only affects women, many people including doctors, spouses, and others dismiss the condition as fybromyalgia and say that it is all in the head of the man who has it. But as we all know, this is a real condition and these ideas about it being a mental disorder have been disclaimed. Fybromyalgia can occur to men as well as women.
It is unclear what causes fybromyalgia, although we do know that certain traumas, injuries, and virus illnesses can trigger the disorder. However, sometimes it strikes without any apparent reason. It is also unclear why so few men get the disorder, not that they are missing out on anything. Who would want it? Whatever the cause, there are some biological markers that folks with fybromyalgia have in common.
According to experts in the field, fybromyalgia is characterized by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. It is a neurochemical disease. Those with fybromyalgia have been shown to have a greater amount of substance P, a neurotransmitter that signals pain and a lesser amount of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that inhibits pain.
Genetics and hormones also play a role in both the cause of the disease and in the gender discrepancy associated with it. There are genes that make people more susceptible to pain and there are hormones, like estrogen, that actually reduces the pain threshold. This plays a part in why women would feel fybromyalgia pain so intensely and it give women higher odds at a diagnosis of fybromyalgia.
A common test used for diagnosis of fybromyalgia is the tender point test. The doctor would apply pressure to specific areas of the body, called tender points, where even a light touch would signal pain. If 12 of the 18 points test positive for pain, then a positive diagnosis for fybromyalgia is given. However, men naturally have more pain tolerance than women so many men with the disorder never get this diagnosis because they do not meet the criteria. Women are just naturally tenderer than men.
But things are changing in that matter. Now, doctors base their diagnosis on the whole of the symptoms of the patient and not just the tender point exam alone.
HWO FYBROMYALGIA AFFECTS MEN
Chronic pain is the main symptom in fybromyalgia. However, there are other symptoms that can play a role in the disease like fatigue, sleeplessness, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, and restless leg syndrome. Men with fybromyalgia tend to have fewer symptoms than women and seem to deal better with the pain. But in one way, fybromyalgia affects men more that women; the reason is sociological more than physical.
Men do not come to the doctor nearly as much as women. Many men have the mindset that they are not supposed to complain, just grin and bear it. The men that do go are a result of their wives making them go to the doctor. According to doctors, about 20% of the fybromyalgia cases in men go undiagnosed. The longer men put off seeing a doctor, the more likely the disease will progress to the point where their occupation, hobbies, and general lifestyle will deteriorate.
Depression seems to be a symptom that plagues men with fybromyalgia. In fact, some men often feel broken, even suicidal. One man with fybromyalgia explained that it was like taking a part of his masculinity away. Always being the provider and protector, a man with fybromyalgia may think that the roles have been reversed. The best thing a man with fybromyalgia can do is get diagnosed. Once he accomplishes this, he will be on his way to finding relief.
There is no known cure for fybromyalgia at this time. But there are a lot of treatment options that can really help curb the symptoms. Medications will help with the pain. Alternative treatments like acupuncture and massage can make a difference. Of course, lifestyle changes like exercise and healthy diets are also important.
There is a link between weight and fybromyalgia. Being overweight is associated with pain and fatigue. Obesity puts people at higher risk of getting the disease. That is not to say that all those who are overweight will get fybromyalgia or that those extra pounds, in themselves, cause fybromyalgia. It does make sense that if a person is overweight, the mere weight puts extra stress on the joints. The body has to work harder. I believe obesity takes an awful toll on the bodily functions. It may account for many other disorders and diseases beside fybromyalgia. A healthy lifestyle will curb this obesity and help restore normal processes.
Fybromyalgia is a very frustrating, crippling disease that affects mostly women but can affect men as well. Men tend to show less physical symptoms than women but are more affected by sociological factors. Diagnosis of this condition needs to be generic, not based on gender. Men need to seek out help from their doctor in order to start treatment. By doing this, they will get a grip on the condition and progress toward a new life that can be similar to the one they thought they had lost.