Fi­bromyal­gia Ex­plained

Why doc­tors are fi­nally pay­ing at­ten­tion to it

Reader's Digest (Canada) - - Contents - BY SAMAN­THA RIDE­OUT

Why doc­tors are fi­nally pay­ing at­ten­tion to it. SAMAN­THA RIDE­OUT

STILL POORLY UN­DER­STOOD by med­i­cal sci­en­tists but at last an area of wide­spread re­search, fi­bromyal­gia is the name for a clus­ter of symp­toms that af­fects an es­ti­mated two to three per cent of adults.

The most prom­i­nent of these symp­toms is pain spread widely around the body. It’s usu­ally de­scribed as dull, con­stant and with­out ap­par­ent cause. Suf­fer­ers might also ex­pe­ri­ence mus­cle stiff­ness, headaches, brain fog or fa­tigue.

Most pa­tients are di­ag­nosed in mid­dle age. On av­er­age, it takes more than two years to get a di­ag­no­sis, in part be­cause there are no lab tests to con­firm it. Your doc­tor might still or­der some to rule out other is­sues, such as mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis.

Fi­bromyal­gia’s ex­act cause re­mains un­con­firmed. A pop­u­lar the­ory is that it’s a dis­or­der of the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem—i.e., some­thing’s gone wrong with the way the brain pro­cesses pain sig­nals from the nerves.

Be­cause pa­tients show few or no ex­ter­nal signs of their suf­fer­ing, some doc­tors have chalked fi­bromyal­gia up to over­ac­tive imag­i­na­tions. How­ever, this po­si­tion is be­com­ing less com­mon as more stud­ies show that the con­di­tion is fairly fre­quent. Many med­i­cal au­thor­i­ties, in­clud­ing the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, now rec­og­nize fi­bromyal­gia.

Un­for­tu­nately, there’s no known cure; ex­ist­ing treat­ments are aimed at re­liev­ing symp­toms. Pa­tients are typ­i­cally en­cour­aged to try non­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal mea­sures first, then add drugs (mus­cle re­lax­ants, painkillers) if nec­es­sary.

To date, the most ef­fec­tive method of tem­per­ing pain seems to in­volve graded ex­er­cise. This means start­ing at an ap­pro­pri­ate level—which can be quite mod­er­ate—and grad­u­ally

Ex­trin­sic ag­ing is...

A. toxic mould growth on

old food.

B. when ul­tra­vi­o­let ra­di­a­tion

dam­ages the skin. C. cel­lu­lar degra­da­tion due

to chronic stress.

D. the over­all ef­fect of ag­ing

on qual­ity of life.

An­swer: B. Ex­trin­sic ag­ing is skin dam­age caused by en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors, pri­mar­ily UV ra­di­a­tion, as op­posed to the un­avoid­able changes re­lated to ge­net­ics and pass­ing time. On ex­posed skin, up to 90 per cent of ag­ing can be caused by the sun or tan­ning booths. To see the ex­tent to which this may be hap­pen­ing to you, com­pare reg­u­larly ex­posed ar­eas (the face and neck, for ex­am­ple) to ar­eas that are usu­ally cov­ered. Un­like nat­u­ral skin ag­ing, ex­trin­sic ag­ing can cause a leath­ery tex­ture, spi­der veins, freck­ling, dis­col­oration and deep wrin­kles.

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