Ask the Doc- Do most doctors recognize fibromyalgia as a real illness?

So before I begin, here is a brief, informative article about what is fibromyalgia.

Ok, to answer the question. If you would have asked me if fibromyalgia was real five years ago, I would have said “no”. Even after I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I still wasn’t sure if I believed it was a actual diagnosis. Now, after years of dealing with the disease, I understand fully that fibromyalgia is a true illness.

As far as my colleagues and other physicians go, I think they have differing opinions. Perhaps their views are dependent on their specialty or how much experience they have had with the disease. I think the majority of rheumatologists use the diagnosis easily, while the majority of PCP’s accept the diagnosis, but maybe are not as readily able to apply it.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome which was made as a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning when all other things were ruled out, then we could call it fibromyalgia. There are no definitive laboratory or imaging tests that are done to prove fibromyalgia, only tests to prove that it is not something else. Also fibromyalgia is often found with other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, which makes it unclear if it’s fibromyalgia or just a part of another disease.

There is non- laboratory diagnostic criteria, such as a certain number of 18 tender points on the body,same level pain for at least 3 months, and having no other disease to explain the symptoms. Although there is criteria, you don’t necessarily need to meet all the criteria to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Having diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia supports the concept of fibromyalgia as a real disease.

There are many treatments for fibromyalgia depending on what symptoms a patient has. As the FDA approves drugs for the treatment of fibromyalgia, it does make it clearer in the mind of a physician that fibromyalgia is a true illness.

So in summary, I believe fibromyalgia to be a real illness, and as there is more information, more diagnostic and treatment methods, more doctors will feel comfortable in giving the diagnosis of fibromyalgia and treating patients accordingly.

Please continue to send me your questions, so I can answer them in a post. Also, please keep in mind I cannot give out any personal medical advice.

4 thoughts on “Ask the Doc- Do most doctors recognize fibromyalgia as a real illness?

  1. I am willing to consider that it does exist, but I am unwilling to accept it as a diagnosis of a lazy doctor who doesn’t want to examine the real reason for pain. I had a doctor tell me that. I was in the hospital for pain with a low potassium level and a CT scan that showed a nodule on my left adrenal gland. He told me I had fibromyalgia with chronic fatigue syndrome… He didn’t tell me that I’d had an abnormal CT scan result. I had cancer fatigue and pain from hypokalemia. You have to consider the circumstance.

  2. Lisa, as the doc says fibro is a diagnosis of exclusion. Those of us with it have gone through months (sometimes years) of tests and specialists to determine what we don’t have. Your doctor’s omission of information, and resultant ‘throwaway’ diagnosis does not negate fibro as a very real illness. It just means you need a new doctor…and I hope you found one and feel better.

    1. I know that it is real, but not everyone who is told they have it actually has been examined enough to exclude other causes. In my case it was a throw away diagnosis. A Google search will tell you that extremely low potassium levels can cause generalized pain, and the nodule on my left adrenal gland should have had him considering an adrenal cause for low potassium levels. We can talk about horses and zebras all we want but if we are standing on the Serengeti a zebra could have been considered. I know people who were diagnosed with cfs and fibromyalgia by a chiropractor using a wand that they grasp. The chiro uses the same technique to diagnose gluten intolerance. When my friend with lupus tells me that she has fibromyalgia, I believe her. When my friend with the chiro tells me the same thing I want to tell her to let an MD check that out, but know that some (many?) md’s will use that to get a middle aged woman out of his office.

  3. Which is why I asked this doc the original question – the post she wrote was her response, and thank you doctor – you see so much of that nowadays that those of us with ‘real’ fibro are treated like hypochondriacs, or worse, drug seekers because face it, the only ‘real’ way to combat pain this intense is with intense drugs. It’s very frustrating.

    And, you seem to confirm my long-held suspicions that when all else fails just tell the patient she has cfs and fibro or one or the other.

    I’m worried that other serious illnesses are too-often overlooked because of it.

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