Is fibromyalgia real or imagined?
September 05, 2017
Chronic pain that lacks an obvious cause has confounded doctors for as long as medicine has existed as a field. Fibromyalgia (FMS) is thus one step forward in a journey that has lasted centuries. To answer the question of whether FMS is imaginary, you must understand the purpose of diagnostics: to give doctors an efficient way to treat patients.
Difference between Syndromes and Diseases
Diseases with obvious causes such as diabetes and cancer are no more legitimate than those with obscure origins. Suffering patients deserve the right care. FMS has unknown origins, so it’s known as a syndrome rather than a disease. The fact that there are no laboratory tests that can confirm its diagnosis doesn't make the symptoms any less genuine.
FMS was first defined in 1990 as a way to research a pain phenomenon with a specific symptom set, but it has evolved to become a diagnostic label. Its symptoms include:
- Chronic and widespread pain
- Insomnia and lack of fourth stage sleep
- Lack of clarity
Patients respond to the same broad therapies. Doctors don’t need to know the cause to treat the symptoms any more than you need to understand how your digestive system works in order to sate your hunger. Many syndromes share this characteristic—doctors can only guess at the cause of migraines and even the reason their treatments work. This does not make migraine sufferers’ need for treatment any less urgent.
Chronic pain patients are almost four times more likely to attempt suicide, so treatment is potentially lifesaving. Doctors are stuck in the initial stages of understanding fibromyalgia’s physiological causes, so as knowledge improves, they may learn that these patients have a few different diseases. The symptoms and their causes are nonetheless authentic: You needn’t see the roots of a tree to know they are there.