It is estimated that around two million people in the UK are living with fibromyalgia. However, that number is a very broad estimate, for the simple reason that the condition is so notoriously difficult to diagnose. To make matters worse, certain myths and misconceptions have led some to have reservations about seeking medical advice at all.
As a result, there are thousands who are either misdiagnosed or simply go for years without any diagnosis at all. But the publication of a self-diagnosis tool could be a positive step towards helping them approach their GP to get the medical support they need.
Understanding your symptoms
It’s important to understand that a home diagnosis is not a substitute for a medical one. However, the online questionnaire is a great tool for helping sufferers to understand their symptoms and provides a good indication of whether fibromyalgia might be the root cause.
The questionnaire itself is a simple matter of checking boxes relating to types and sources of pain, along with overlapping symptoms such as fatigue, nervousness or cognitive problems. It then asks you to add up how many boxes you have ticked, and if the total is seven or more, the guidance notes strongly recommend booking an appointment with a GP. The real beauty is that you can then take the questionnaire along with you and give a more coherent description of your symptoms than is usually possible in a hurried 10-minute consultation.
It’s about more than just pain
There’s a common misconception that fibromyalgia is all about unexplained pain. However, that is only one symptom of the condition. Those living with the condition also experience fatigue, muscle stiffness, memory loss, headaches, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome and difficulties maintaining concentration.
There are a variety of theories as to what triggers the condition, and it is likely that there is no single root cause. Researchers believe there is a link to neurotransmitters such as serotonin, but there is also strong evidence of a genetic link, and fibromyalgia could be passed from one generation to the next. Stressful emotional events such as bereavement or relationship breakdown can also be a trigger.
Living with fibromyalgia
If the new home test helps more people get an accurate diagnosis, that can only be a good thing. There is still no cure for fibromyalgia, but an accurate diagnosis is the first step on the path to living with the condition. The following measures have been shown to help keep the symptoms in check:
- Take a natural supplement to help maintain serotonin levels.
- Try to minimise stress, for example by reassessing and managing your workload
- Take regular exercise – even if it’s just a daily walk around the park
- Maintain a daily diary to better understand what triggers the worst symptoms
- Treat yourself to a regular soak in a warm bath
- Keep caffeine and alcohol intake to a minimum
- Use relaxation tools for both mind and body – from yoga to audio books
- Make sure you have a regular sleep routine
There is still a long road ahead in the fight against fibromyalgia, but with every passing week, health professionals are learning more. Every new diagnosis is a step forward, so why not take a look at the online tool for yourself?