Sunday, May 12, 2013 is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. In the past couple of years the word "fibromyalgia" was been ever-present in TV and magazine advertisements for a slew of medications, but what is it? Ads don't really give us a good picture of what this illness is or what it does to those impacted by it.
Fibromyalgia is a collection of signs, symptoms and medical problems that occur together, but are not related to a specific identifiable cause although new research points to a malfunction in the nervous system. With it's vague "official" description, fibromyalgia is incomprehensible to many and frustratingly cruel to those who have it, as it does not just impact the sufferer, but also their family, friends and co-workers.
Some of the more common symptoms of "fibro," as those in the know often call it, are:
• Daily pain in parts or all of the body
• Sleep disturbance
• Chronic fatigue
• Impaired cognitive function
• Depression and anxiety
• Cold/heat intolerance
• Digestive issues
Sounds like a fun time, doesn't it? Symptoms vary drastically between individuals. One person may be a-okay with only a small dose of sleep medication each night, while others find themselves unable to work or perform activities of daily living. It affects both men and women and can strike at almost any age from juvenile onset through one's retirement years. Studies also show that it tends to have a genetic component, often running in families.
As unbelievable as it may seem, many people and some doctors still believe this debilitating condition is "just in your head". Ha! Maybe they should try it on for a day and then we'll see if they've changed their tune.
CARE and make Fibromyalgia visible
This year the National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association (NFMCPA) has chosen the them of CARE & Make Fibromyalgia Visible. The acronym CARE stands for:
• C - Contribute
• A - Advocate
• R - Research
• E - Educate
Contribute - If you know someone with fibromyalgia, try to find ways to contribute to their lives. Offer to help with yard work or to run errands if an afflicted person is going through a particularly bad flare-up.
Advocate - Encourage your fibro-affected loved ones to speak up for themselves at medical appointments, join support groups, and not to let their condition take over. They have fibromyalgia. It does not have them.
Research - You can do research to find out how to better support your friend or family member. Also, as a caregiver, find out how you can continue to keep a smile on your face while you deal with the emotional ups and downs often associated with sharing part of your life with someone who is chronically ill. In addition, consider donating to the NFMCPA toward their continued research into treatment options and cures.
Page 2 of 2 - Educate - You can't make a difference if you don't understand. As more and more members of the population are diagnosed with fibromyalgia each year, educate yourself. If fibromyalgia hasn't touched your life already, it may sometime in the future. For those living with fibromyalgia - remember you are the expert on the particulars of your condition. Keep yourself informed as to the latest news and share your needs with others.