Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder or neurochemical disease that causes aches all over the body. In addition to the widespread pain, people suffering from fibromyalgia have tender points that hurt upon light touch. Other common complaints include chronic fatigue, headache, sleep and mood issues, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Medical statistics show that fibromyalgia is more common in women than in men. Since only 10% of fibromyalgia patients are men, it is harder for men to get a proper diagnosis of this “invisible” disease. Why is the number of male sufferers so low, and what factors favor the appearance of this condition in men? Keep reading to find out!
Around 5 million people suffer from this disease in the United States alone. More than 80 percent of sufferers are women. However, medical studies suggest that about 1.5 – 2.5 million American males will develop this disorder at some point in their lives.
While researchers have yet to determine the root causes of this specific disorder, they have identified the following risk factors for developing fibromyalgia:
The symptoms of fibromyalgia are usually the same in both men and women. The only difference between the two patient categories is the intensity of the pain they perceive. Due to the presence of estrogen, which lowers their pain threshold, women usually perceive the pain as more intense. Their increased sensitivity to pain increases the chances for women to receive a correct diagnosis from the beginning.
Due to the fact that they perceive pain at a lower intensity, it is believed that men exhibit fewer and milder symptoms of fibromyalgia than women, and experience less fatigue and fewer tender points. In reality, symptoms in men range from mild and non-debilitating to severe and quite debilitating. Some of the most common symptoms are:
Since some men experience only mild fibromyalgia symptoms that resemble the symptoms of other disorders, they may wait quite a long period before deciding when it is time for them to see a doctor. Nevertheless, a man experiencing fibromyalgia symptoms for at least three months should seek medical help and treatment.
Since some of the symptoms also occur in other disorders, it takes a doctor’s professional exam to rule out other medical conditions. Men suffering from fibromyalgia should also seek medical care if they notice any change or aggravation of their symptoms.
The sad truth is that men with fibromyalgia still have a hard time trying to convince doctors of the seriousness of their physical condition. Because people still think that fibromyalgia is a woman’s disease, men with this disorder will often receive the label of being lazy or whiners.
However, doctors who are familiar with the disease can diagnose it based on two main criteria:
Throughout the last decade, marked by the economic crisis, when jobs were scarce and expenses were high, many men kept their suffering a secret, fearing that they could lose their jobs. However, physical labor aggravates the pain fibromyalgia causes, so men suffering from this disease should notify their employer, especially since the symptoms could influence their ability to handle heavy machinery or drive on long distances.
Treating fibromyalgia can be challenging since there is no universal cure. The available medication helps alleviate symptoms and improve sleep quality, reducing the feeling of fatigue. In severe cases, a team approach is more effective. The team usually includes a physical therapist, a doctor, and other health professionals if the patient suffers from sleep disorders, gastroenterological, neurological, psychiatric problems, etc.
Those who suspect they suffer from fibromyalgia could find it easier to get an accurate diagnosis in a rheumatology or pain clinic. The combined experience of the staff in these healthcare centers can really help sufferers improve the quality of their lives.
A fibromyalgia treatment plan usually includes:
Self-care activities are very important in the treatment of fibromyalgia as well. They minimize the impact of this disorder on men’s lives. The most important lifestyle changes that can help male patients with fibromyalgia improve the quality of their life include:
As research has revealed, the difficulty of coping with fibromyalgia depends on the way the sufferer’s body processes pain. To understand what makes people with fibromyalgia hypersensitive to pain, ongoing studies focus on:
- Imagining methods for comparing the way in which the central nervous system responds to pain in patients with fibromyalgia and in patients with other chronic pain disorders
- Evaluation of twins, one of which experiences widespread pain and the other doesn’t, in parallel with twins who don’t experience chronic pain
- Examining the application of behavioral therapy on fibrositis patients, in order to determine the function of physiological factors in dealing with chronic pain.
The efforts of improving fibromyalgia symptoms focus on:
Even though fibrositis cannot yet be cured, it can definitely be treated to the point where patients feel better than before. To cope with fibromyalgia to the best of their abilities, men should know all there is to know about this disorder. They should not be afraid to seek help from doctors and support from their family and friends, to start adapting their lifestyles to this new challenge.
Summing up the advice in the previous sections, men with fibromyalgia should eat healthier diets, exercise more, stress less, sleep better, learn to relax, know, and respect their physical limitations. This way, their body will cope easier with pain, and they will be able to live normal lives.