Symptoms Of Fibromyalgia In Men
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The Short Answer –
Fibromyalgia in men happens. FACT. While much is made about studies that show approx 4 out of every 5 people to develop fibromyalgia are women, we risk ignoring the substantial number of men that also suffer. And suffer you will if you are unlucky enough to develop it.
In this article with review the various symptoms of fibromyalgia in men, and the differences in how the syndrome can attack men and women…
Men Are The Forgotten Sufferers Of Fibromyalgia....
The symptoms of fibromyalgia in men can be different to those of women and understanding the symptoms early is absolutely essential in slowing it’s development. However, because the bulk of sufferers are women, precious little research has been done around how men handle the condition and the differences it presents.
Furthermore, a study in 2018 in The American Journal of Men’s Health pointed out both a difference in treatment between men and women with fibromyalgia and frequent misdiagnosis.
When HelpRelievePain has enough suitable members, we will lead the studies into fibromyalgia in men. In the meantime, what little research that does exist and empirical evidence from people I have met suggests a number of subtle changes in how men react to fibromyalgia.
Diagnosing Fibromyalgia In Men
Fibromyalgia itself is a syndrome (in other words a series of symptoms) that is not clearly defined or easily diagnosed with any particular test – be it blood test or scan. It can lie dormant in a person for years and then suddenly develop because or any one of a number of potential triggers.
It is characterised by chronic pain from head to toe for more than three months and an inability to sleep. However, there are plenty of other chronic conditions that also present with very similar key symptoms.
In order to diagnose fibromyalgia, a clinician effectively does so by ruling out all the other possibilities first such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis that present with similar symptoms, but maybe only affect certain parts of the body and for which a definitive diagnosis can be confirmed by tests.
To give you an example, you might be given blood tests looking for ‘rheumatoid factor’ to indicate rheumatoid arthritis and further x-rays or CT scans to either confirm it’s presence or rule it out as a possibility.
Once a whole host of similar conditions have been ruled out, then the doctor is left with fibromyalgia as the most likely diagnosis. For this reason, it is often falsely used as a ‘catch-all’ for anything a doctor can’t otherwise diagnose that is chronic pain related.
Diagnosis of the symptoms of fibromyalgia in men is then further complicated by the fact that there is no defined doctor that should be making the diagnosis. Family doctors, rheumatologists, pain specialists, neurologists could all claim to be the ones with the most experience to make the best diagnosis.
Most frequently, it will be a family doctor after ruling out some of the most likely diseases who’ll refer you to either a rheumatologist or a pain specialist to make the final diagnosis.
From that point on, it is likely you will need all of the specialties at one point or another and they will effectively form a team to tackle your symptoms.
Symptoms Of Fibromyalgia In Men
Once diagnosed there is no cure. Not a great deal is known about what definitively causes fibromyalgia, so it is no surprise that there has no cure found.
Most theories surround an improperly functioning central nervous system as the main symptom of fibromyalgia sufferers is a constant pain and a hypersensitivity to pain in general.
It is the central nervous system and the receptors in your brain that transmit/ interpret the pain messages, so if you are in more pain than it is felt that a ‘normal’ person should feel, then the most obvious place to look is at your pain receptors.
As there is no known cure, treatment for fibromyalgia in both men and women is made up of a series of treatments for the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
For this reason, it is essential to be able to tell your doctor which of the following symptoms of fibromyalgia in men you suffer from –
- Widespread Pain
- Difficulty Sleeping
- Extreme Fatigue (Tiredness)
- Increased Sensitivity To Pain
- IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
- Increased Sensitivity To Environmental Changes
- Pins and Needles (Paraesthesia)
- Joint Pain
- Dry Eyes
- Jaw Pain
- Pelvic and Urinary Problems
- Weight gain
- Cold or Flu like symptoms
- Skin Problems
- Chest Symptoms
- Breathing Difficulty
- Excessive Sweating
- Restless Leg syndrome
- Burning sensation of the skin
To learn a little more about each one check out our informational article on ‘what is fibromyalgia’
Treatments can be made of a whole range of medications and alternative natural treatments. There is no defined combination that works better than others. It is however fairly universally agreed that using drugs to control your fibromyalgia is far from the ideal scenario.
It is always best to try a huge range of the suggested treatments from our page ‘what is the best treatment for fibromyalgia’ and then maybe consider with your clinician looking at various pain killers or anti-depressants as a last resort.
The Difference With Fibromyalgia In Men
So what is different about the symptoms of fibromyalgia in men?
Well, first of all, your gender is a major part of any clinicians ‘likely’ diagnosis, so some doctors less experienced in diagnosing fibromyalgia, will rule it out simply because you are a man.
This is especially the case if your symptoms are not screaming ‘I HAVE FIBROMYALGIA’.
The second problem is that historically, men have always been under-diagnosed for fibromyalgia because they understate their symptoms. Smith et al noted that most mens’ desire to be seen as strong and stable actually led to their brains being wired differently when it came to pain.
It meant they were less likely to be able to express that outright agony that fiberomyalgia can be – instead bottling it up and suffering considerably more anxiety as a result.
Women were found to be much better at expressing and accepting their pain. It meant it was more likely to be out in the open, with a support network in place and treatments at the ready.
Men were much more likely to be denying of the pain to themselves and their doctors. For a syndrome such as fibromyalgia which cant be detected in tests and so is reliant on your account of your symptoms, this causes a major problem.
Lack of infrastructure…
Another reason for the understating of symptoms is the lack of accepted infrastructure around men having fibromyalgia both at home and in the workplace. A lot of male jobs were either physical in nature or didn’t allow for people with a disability such as fibromyalgia to carry them out.
The end result is that if you understate your symptoms and explain them away with any other reason you can think of, then they will emerge in very different ways (pain and extreme anxiety) and your diagnosis is likely to be inaccurate.
In men with fibromyalgia this is sadly all too common.
The Final Word –
In a condition that relies on accurate reporting of your symptoms, because no diagnostic test can pick it up, how you accept your fibromyalgia pain is all important.
In men this has always been a problem. For a host of reasons, as a gender they have been under-diagnosed and sometimes even ruled out for fibromyalgia, just because of their agenda.
The danger with being mis-diagnosed (other than the obvious problem of being mistreated) is that your fibromyalgia worsens because you are not taking the correct preventative steps.
Your fibromyalgia is then not actually treated properly until it is fully developed and has overwhelming consequences for the rest of your life.
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References Used –
1. Daenuka Muraleetharan, MS, Ana Fadich, MPH, CHES, Colin Stephenson, and Whitney Garney, PhD, MPH. (Feb, 2018). Understanding the Impact of Fibromyalgia on Men: Findings From a Nationwide Survey. American Journal Of Men’s Health.
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