Do you know someone with fybromyalgia? Maybe it is someone you love or someone at work. Coping with this syndrome is often difficult and frustrating. It may make the person irritable, complaining, and just plain miserable. If you know a person with this debilitating condition, there are several things of which you need to be aware.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
First of all, understand that this condition is a real disorder and not something that is conjured up by the patient. Many patients with fybromyalgia do display emotional symptoms that come with the syndrome but most of these symptoms are brought on by the physical pain, stiffness, and fatigue associated with the disorder. Just think, if you had to cope with chronic pain, muscle stiffness, and constant fatigue, you might experience the depression and frustration that occurs from those chronic symptoms.
That is just what happens to patients with fybromyalgia. To make matters worse, these emotional tumults create a spiraling effect whereby as the pain gets worse, the depression increases and so intensifies the pain. This catch 22 situation is very discouraging and frustrating for any patient.
The next thing you need to know is that there is no cure for this condition. That, alone, can make some people discouraged. However, there is a silver lining to this cloud. Fybromyalgia is not life-threatening and there are several medications and treatments plans that have proven effective in relieving the many symptoms accompanying this condition.
The most common symptoms of fybromyalgia are:
- widespread muscle pain
- concentration issues
- sleep problems
- facial pain
- mood changes
- dry mouth, eyes, and skin
- heightened sensitivity to sounds, bright light, smells, and touch
Because the symptoms of fybromyalgia are different for each patient, it is important that a treatment plan be customized for the individual. Normally, a plan that includes exercise, stress reduction, pain medications, and patient education is recommended.
- Exercise that is low impact, such as swimming, cycling, walking, and stationary cross-country ski machines can really help control the symptoms. An exercise regimen performed in the mornings, every other day seems a wise choice. One result of exercise is better REM sleep.
- Stress reduction is another important way to minimize symptoms. The plan must be customized to the patient. Several techniques include biofeedback, relaxation tapes, psychological counseling, and support among family members, friends, and doctors.
- Medicines for fybromyalgia are diverse. Some are antidepressants. Others block nerve pain. More recently, drugs that simultaneously increase the amount of two brain transmitters, serotonin and norepinephrine, have been approved to treat fybromyalgia in adults.
- Patient education is a number one priority for patients. Understanding the disease will help patients cope with the varied symptoms of fybromyalgia. The local chapters of the Arthritis Foundation and Community Hospital support groups offer a good foundational education for people with fybromyalgia.
A third item you need to consider is the fact that fybromyalgia tends to affect women more than men. In fact, about 80% of the cases of fybromyalgia are women between the ages of thirty-five and fifty-five. The rest is a combination of men, children, and the elderly. This syndrome is found in many countries. In Sweden and Britain, 1% of the population is affected with the disease. Here in the United States, about 4% of the population is affected. Fybromyalgia can occur independently or in conjunction with another disease like systemic lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
The final thing you need to know is that fybromyalgia is a condition that is aggravated by triggers. Changes in the weather, too much or too little exercise, too much or too little rest, depression, stress and anxiety all tend to aggravate fybromyalgia symptoms.
Also, fybromyalgia may not show itself every day. Those with the condition have good days when they are able to participate in activities or run errands or perform regular chores and duties. Then there are the bad days when the symptoms are so severe that the only thing they can do is try to find relief.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
If you know someone with fybromyalgia, you need to understand that they live life day by day. They may not always be able to participate in planned activities or events. Sometimes they may have to cancel outings because of their condition. They may seem unwilling to do things that would seem very ordinary to a normal person. This is where understanding on your part plays a very important role. The best way to help someone with fybromyalgia is to realize their condition, be gracious when plans get canceled, and support them with understanding and compassion. By being their friend, you can help them overcome the frustration and anxiety of this syndrome.