Fibromyalgia can be very difficult to diagnose. It is oftentimes confused with other diseases and illnesses. As a result, this can lead to a misdiagnosis or a delayed diagnosis. Understanding the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia and the specific types of tests that doctors may perform can help patients as well as their doctors know if they have it.
Symptoms Associated with Fibromyalgia
The two main symptoms of fibromyalgia are widespread pain and fatigue (which can be chronic). Yet these are common symptoms present with many other conditions.
There could also be an assortment of symptoms that accompany pain and fatigue such as:
- sleep problems;
- irritable bowel syndrome; and
- difficulty with memory or thinking.
But again, these symptoms could fit a range of other illnesses as well. Another challenge is that fibromyalgia patients don’t always share common symptoms. And some patients may have another condition as well. Needless to say, this condition can easily go undetected.
Many patients are made to feel (or outright told) that the pain they are experiencing is just in their head. But even when the source of it can’t be found, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Tests That Can Detect Fibromyalgia
A diagnosis may come from a doctor but patients can do their part to help, like keeping a pain journal. The more details the journal documents (such as location of pain, time of day, intensity) the better it will help a doctor’s evaluation.
One type of test that can help detect fibromyalgia is a physical examination of tender points. The doctor uses his/her finger to apply light pressure to various parts of the body like the neck, shoulders, chest, elbows, hips and knees.
The doctor will test 18 tender points. If the person experiences pain in at least 11 of them, this is one indication of fibromyalgia. But it’s also important to determine if the pain is widespread and not localized. This means pain is felt on both the left and right side of the body, along with above and below the waist.
It’s important to note that a person may have fibromyalgia even when the tender point count is under 11. However, if the condition has become debilitating and the fibromyaglia patient is seeking disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), the test must show the count is at least 11.
Of course, part of testing for fibromyalgia is ruling out other conditions. So a doctor would likely perform a variety of other tests, such as blood or imaging tests, when diagnosing the condition.
Disability Benefits When Fibromyalgia Has Become Disabling
Many people are able to function with fibromyalgia when treated properly. But for others, it can be severe enough that it significantly impacts their ability to work or perform routine daily tasks. As a result, fibromyalgia patients may be entitled to Social Security disability benefits.
Although this condition isn’t one that falls under the listing of impairments that qualify for disability benefits, patients diagnosed with a medically determinable impairment may qualify. Given to the challenges in these cases, patients should talk to a disability attorney for help.
Markhoff & Mittman offers The Disability Guys’ Guide to Navigating Through the Social Security Disability Maze. Check it out and call 866-205-2415 to set up a consultation with a disability lawyer.