Have you ever heard of fibromyalgia? For a long time, this condition has been overlooked by the medical world since its cause is unknown and therefore difficult to diagnose. However, by brushing aside this topic, many people are living with chronic pain and other symptoms with no pharmaceutical aid; after all, even their doctors may not know about it. Yet this disorder affects about 10 million people in the U.S. and about 3-6% of the world’s population. (1) That is a lot people suffering from a medically unacknowledged condition. However, one country decided to change that.
Fibromyalgia in Northern Ireland
In Northern Ireland, fibromyalgia is becoming recognized as a long-term condition by health professionals, following three years of complaints being issued to the Patient and Client Council in Northern Ireland. Dedicated members interviewed sufferers, lobbied politicians and health professionals to establish medical services across the health trusts.
One sufferer, Martina Marks, remarks it is a relief to be taken seriously. “I have lived with the pain since 1997. At times it can be chronic, with aches in my muscles and joints,” she says. She was not diagnosed for 10 years.
Louise Skelly, director of operations at the Patient and Client Council, says, “What we are surprised about is how many patients have come forward, wanting to share their stories. They felt very isolated and very alone and what we also discovered is that the clinicians also have found this a difficult area to work in so they have welcomed the sharing of knowledge and information.”
On living with fibromyalgia, Marks explains, “Often the pain is unbearable and then you have to contend with a sleep disorder, headaches and just not being able to deal with everyday life.” (2)
Besides for the pain and tenderness throughout the body, other symptoms of fibromyalgia may include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Morning stiffness
- Cognitive and memory issues
- Painful menstrual cramps
- Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
- Sensitivity to temperature
- Restless legs syndrome
- Sensitivity to loud noises or bright lights (3)
Fibromyalgia can make daily life a struggle, sometimes stopping a patient from being able to function well at a job if the symptoms are left untreated. Often being out of work can lead to isolation, loneliness, and depression.
“It was important that I got a diagnosis, because I’d been going through different treatments, seeing different doctors and nothing was giving me relief,” says Marks. “Some of them don’t understand the illness and I think we need an awareness campaign for the medical profession to understand the variety of symptoms with fibromyalgia and the severity of it.”
Getting Fibromyalgia Recognized as a Long-Term Disease
The rise of awareness of fibromyalgia in Northern Ireland is bringing this disease to the forefront to heal and improve the lives of those suffering from it. Without this education, medical professionals would not be able to diagnose and properly treat these patients whether through medication, exercises, or alternative therapies.
If you live in a country where fibromyalgia is not recognized as a long-term disease, that may mean there are countless citizens living in chronic pain with no clue of how to treat it. Fortunately, there are many ways you can spread awareness, including:
- Posting facts, stats, and life stories about fibromyalgia on social media
- Becoming involved in local fibromyalgia awareness events
- Hosting your own event to raise funds for research
- Donating to fibromyalgia organization or charity
- Hosting a Facebook page for people in your area with fibromyalgia
- Contacting your senator or congressman about extra funding research and treatment
- Printing support posters and hanging them at work/school/college
- Wear a fibromyalgia purple ribbon and explain the disease to people who ask why you wear it (4)
For those sufferers or sympathizers of fibromyalgia, it’s a relief to know that Northern Ireland is finally taking a stand in acknowledging it as a long-term issue. Hopefully, this declaration will spread to other countries and give the undiagnosed patients the treatments they deserve. In the meantime, spreading awareness and educating ourselves on this disease will bring the sufferers closer to relief from the chronic pain.
If you struggle with fibromyalgia, check out these articles that give alternative methods to overcoming the disease: 8 Natural Treatments for Fibromyalgia Pain Relief and The 4 Most Common Causes of Fibromyalgia That Nobody Knows About
- National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA). Prevalence. http://www.fmaware.org/about-fibromyalgia/prevalence/ Accessed: September 19, 2017
- Marie-Louise Connolly. Fibromyalgia to be recognized as long-term condition. BBC News. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-37424804 Published: September 21, 2016. Accessed: September 19, 2017
- Medicine Net. Fibromyalgia. http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=89309 Accessed: September 19, 2017
- Wendy Henderson. 12 Easy Ways to Raise Awareness for Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. Fibromyalgia News Today. https://fibromyalgianewstoday.com/2017/05/11/twelve-easy-ways-to-raise-awareness-for-fibromyalgia-awareness-day/ Published: May 11, 2017. Accessed: September 19, 2017