A disorder of the muscles and soft tissues
Fibromyalgia is a disorder of the muscles and soft tissues whose main characteristic is pain and tenderness (Clauw, 2014). The pain is usually chronic, persistent and widespread. Fibromyalgia affects people of all ages and both sexes but mostly presents in women; young and middle aged women make up approximately eighty to ninety percent of all fibromyalgia cases in America (CDC, 2017). In addition to pain and tenderness, the patients also present with stiffness, chronic fatigue, abnormal sleep patterns, cognitive symptoms such as poor memory, depression, anxiety and gastrointestinal symptoms (Rahman, Underwood, & Carnes, 2014). Different patients complain of different symptoms. The course of the disease also varies in different patients; while symptoms may become better in some patients, other patients may have the symptoms of the disease worsening (Hawkins, 2013). Fibromyalgia has no cure; however, management of this condition leads to improvement of symptoms and the quality of life of the individual and the family (Cooper & Miller, 2010). The principles of management include educating the patient on fibromyalgia to help them understand the condition. Creating awareness of the disease to caregivers also helps them to handle the patients better (Marcus, Richards, Chambers, & Bhowmick, 2012). Changes in lifestyle such as changes in diet, becoming more physically active and attending psychotherapy sessions also help in the management of fibromyalgia (Wolfe, 2014). The Food and Drug Administration approves the use of drugs such as Lyrica, Cymbalta and Savella for the management of pain in fibromyalgia (Boomershine, 2016). Other drugs that also help reduce the symptoms of the disease are antidepressants, pain killers, muscle relaxants and sedatives (Cooper & Miller, 2010). Fibromyalgia has a negative impact on the quality of life of patients by affecting the participation of the patient on normal activities and the relationships with family and other people.
Fibromyalgia affects daily activities of people suffering from the disease. Pain in fibromyalgia presents differently in patients. The pain may be present in the whole body or in specific areas. Muscle stiffness, another symptom of the disease, causes pain; so do muscle spasms and nerve pain (CDER & FDA, 2014). Few patients suffer from severe migraines. Activities that can trigger pain are lifting objects, moving the arms and shoulders, being on a computer for long and being in a vehicle that is moving on a bumpy road (Costa & Gamundi, 2017). Some patients experience sudden intense pain that prevents them from doing anything. Vision problems may accompany these pain flare ups and they include painful and swollen eyes and loss of nearsightedness (Collado, Gomez, & Coscolla, 2014). These physical symptoms have a negative effect on the performance of an individual either at work or in school. A person who is in pain constantly or whose pain intensity increases during the day cannot function well in a professional setting. Vision problems during pain flare ups can hinder a person from performing tasks such as reading, writing or driving. Fatigue in fibromyalgia leads to low productivity because an individual tends to lead a sedentary lifestyle since a person is always exhausted (Costa & Gamundi, 2017). Low performance is also due to inability to carry out physical activities in a sustained manner or the tendency to take more time than required to complete a task (Costa & Gamundi, 2017). Fibromyalgia also has cognitive symptoms, making up the fibrofog, which have a negative impact on an individual’s daily life. The patient has episodes of lack of memory, inattention and impairment of other cognitive abilities such as a disorganized thought process (Tesio, Torta, & Colonna, 2014). These symptoms make a person incapable of effciency at work or expressing ideas and opinions to others.
The relationship of the patient with friends and family
Fibromyalgia also affects the relationship of the patient with friends and family. A person with fibromyalgia has difficulty making friends since anxiety and depression are part of the symptoms of the illness (Marcus, Richards, Chambers, & Bhowmick, 2012). These mood disorders make the person keep to himself and avoid socializing in general. Depression leads to negative thoughts and the feeling of stigma and isolation from other people (Sil, Lynch-Jordan, & Ting, 2013). The person also has a hard time socializing with friends since making plans is a problem. Loss of memory leads to cancellation or postponement of activities (CDER & FDA, 2014). In addition, pain flare ups, which present unannounced, can lead to cancelling of planned events. Fibromyalgia also affects the family of the individual with fibromyalgia. Poor performances at work or at school or failure to meet expectations from family members can lead to strained relationships with family members (Collado, Gomez, & Coscolla, 2014). Furthermore, most people have little knowledge on fibromyalgia and therefore do not understand the limitations on the patients (Marcus, Richards, Chambers, & Bhowmick, 2012). This lack of understanding may result in frustrations and poor communication with family and friends. In some cases, the relationship may shift to one in which the family members have to care for the patient. The obligation to care for the patient may cause tension in the family especially when the family members are not in agreement over who will take care of the patient (Wolfe, 2014). The duty to take care of the patient may also be overwhelming to the other members since they also have other tasks such as work or school (Marcus, Richards, Chambers, & Bhowmick, 2012).
Fibromyalgia also causes strain on the family since the other members of the family have to take over the roles of the patients (Sil, Lynch-Jordan, & Ting, 2013). For example, if the patient was the one providing for the needs of the family, the other members have to work extra hard to continue to live comfortably. Use of money and other resources to fund the treatment of fibromyalgia also causes a burden on the family members. Getting treatment may lead to financial challenges for the family leading to reducing the standards of living of the family members (Arnold, Crofford, & Mease, 2008). The patient may also feel guilty for having shifted priorities from taking care of family members or friends to taking care of themselves to manage fibromyalgia (Arnold, Crofford, & Mease, 2008).
From these effects of fibromyalgia on the life of the patient, health care practitioners need to come up with better treatment programs. Fibromyalgia does not have outward symptoms such as fever and the symptoms fluctuate often; consequently, it is easy for health care practitioners to dismiss the disease or treat the condition as other common diseases. Coming up with better treatment plans for fibromyalgia would require the medical community to have a better understanding of the condition by doing more research on the disorder and established diagnostic criteria. Introduction of drugs with fewer side effects would also help manage the disorder better. It is therefore clear that fibromyalgia is a chronic and long term illness that has debilitating effects and understanding the disease is imperative in the management of the disorder.
Arnold, L., Crofford, L., & Mease, P. (2008, July 21). Patient perspective on the impact of fibromyalgia. PMC , p. 8.
Boomershine, C. (2016, April). Fibromyalgia: Treatment. Medscape , p. 7.
CDC. (2017, 13 March). Fibromyalgia Fact Sheet. Retrieved April 6, 2017, from CDC: http://www.cdc.gov
CDER, & FDA. (2014). Fibromyalgia. New York: FDA.
Clauw, D. (2014, April 16). Fibromyalgia: A Clinical Review. JAMA , p. 2.
Collado, A., Gomez, E., & Coscolla, R. (2014, November 11). Work, family and social environment in patients with fibromyalgia. BioMed Central , p. 4.
Cooper, C., & Miller, J. (2010). Integrative therapies for fibromyalgia. Chicago: Inner Traditions Pub.
Costa, S., & Gamundi, A. (2017, January 26). Altered functional performance in patients with fibromyalgia. PMC , p. 5.
Hawkins, R. (2013, September). Fibromyalgia: A Clinical Update. Journal of American Osteopathic Association , p. 2.
Marcus, D., Richards, K., Chambers, J., & Bhowmick, A. (2012, November 21). Fibromyalgia family and relationship impact. Muskuloskeletal Care , p. 5.
Rahman, A., Underwood, M., & Carnes, D. (2014, February 24). Fibromyalgia. BMJ , p. 2.
Sil, S., Lynch-Jordan, A., & Ting, T. (2013, May 30). Influence of family environment on long term psychosocial functioning of adolescents with fibromyalgia. Arthritis Care and Research , p. 6.
Tesio, V., Torta, D., & Colonna, F. (2014, December 27). Are fibromyalgia patients cognitively impaired? Neuropsychological evidence. Arthritis care and research , p. 2.
Wolfe, M. (2014). Fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis: The relationship between, pain, depression and family health. Loma Linda University Electronic Theses , 13.
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