Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fibro, a Fad Disease?

I was chatting with a friend one day, and our conversation turned to the subject of the host of strange new diseases that seem to be cropping up in our modern world.  He asked, “Why didn’t we hear about these when we were growing up?”

I often wonder about the same thing. There seems to be so many new allergies and sensitivities that more and more people have developed in recent years. Are these really new diseases, or just some form of mass hypochondria? Do we really suffer from more and different diseases, or have they always existed and is medical science just now catching up to them?  Has our environment done something to alter the chemistries in our body? Or could this be just another byproduct of our increased media coverage?

I don’t know the answer to those questions, but I do know that when my friend’s litany of diseases landed on fibromyalgia, I thought, “Whoa!  Wait a minute!  I have that one!”
In an effort to learn more, I researched fibromyalgia’s history and found that it has been documented for many centuries. Here are some notable dates:

·         1600s – Fibromyalgia-like symptoms were first given a name:
muscular rheumatism.
·         1816 – Dr. William Balfour, surgeon at the University of Edinburgh, gave the first full description of fibromyalgia.
·         1824 – Dr. Balfour described tender points.
·         1904 – Sir William Gowers coined the term fibrositis (literally meaning inflammation of fibers) to denote the tender points found in patients with muscular rheumatism.
·         1972 – Dr. Hugh Smythe laid the foundation for the modern definition of fibromyalgia by describing widespread pain and tender points.
·         1975 – The first sleep electroencephalogram study identifying the sleep disturbances that accompany fibromyalgia was performed.

I also discovered a paper entitled, “Understanding Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia: A Review of Recent Discoveries, written by Robert M. Bennett MD, FRCP, Professor of Medicine at Oregon Health Sciences University. In his paper, Professor Bennett states that “fibromyalgia tends to be treated rather dismissively, sometimes with cynical overtones. When I trained in London some 30 years ago, this diagnosis was never mentioned, even though I trained with one of the foremost rheumatologists in the world at the time. In the United States fibromyalgia has become a semi-respectable diagnosis within the last 10 years, but even so it has some critics.”

According to the National Fibromyalgia Association, “fibromyalgia (pronounced fy-bro-my-AL-ja) is a common and complex chronic pain disorder that affects people physically, mentally, and socially. Fibromyalgia is a syndrome rather than a disease. Unlike a disease, which is a medical condition with a specific cause or causes and recognizable signs and symptoms, a syndrome is a collection of signs, symptoms, and medical problems that tend to occur together but are not related to a specific, identifiable cause.”

The Mayo Clinic’s website describes fibromyalgia as follows:
“You hurt all over, and you frequently feel exhausted. Even after numerous tests, your doctor can't find anything specifically wrong with you. If this sounds familiar, you may have fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain in your muscles, ligaments and tendons, as well as fatigue and multiple tender points — places on your body where slight pressure causes pain.

Fibromyalgia occurs in about 2 percent of the population in the United States. Women are much more likely to develop the disorder than are men, and the risk of fibromyalgia increases with age. Fibromyalgia symptoms often begin after a physical or emotional trauma, but in many cases there appears to be no triggering event.”

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