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Study: Could Fibromyalgia Patients Be Suffering From Misdiagnosis?


Recent research has emerged pointing to the idea around the potential for misdiagnosis when it comes to the condition of fibromyalgia. A study conducted by Arthritis Care & Research dove into this idea and the results that emerged from their findings were fascinating.

According to Science Daily, close to 500 participants were used in the study. The individuals were visiting a rheumatology center and completed a health evaluation survey, in addition to filling one out around assessed fibromyalgia diagnosis factors as outlined in the American College of Rheumatology. These patients were also diagnosed and reviewed by clinicians in rheumatology.

Of those 497 involved in the research, just over 24% (121 individuals) met the criteria surrounding a fibromyalgia diagnosis, and over 20% (104 of the participants) were given a diagnosis of the condition by a clinician. While, the agreement between fibromyalgia criteria and clinicians assessments hit just over 79%, the agreement outside of risk was only reasonable. Healthcare practitioners failed to identify over 49% (60 patients) that fell within the criteria of the condition, and incorrectly found that over 11% (43 individuals) had the illness, when it came to the criteria-negative patients.

Lead author of the study, Frederick Wolfe, National Data Bank for Rheumatic Diseases chimed in on the results stating that the team recently saw an issue in 3,000 primary care patients and identified the same kind of results. He, therefore, concluded that the study team’s findings were secure.

Fibromyalgia is an illness that is plagued by fatigue and chronic pain. With no root cause for the condition, it can be quite difficult to diagnose as the signs do mimic other diseases. As pain and tiredness (mentioned above) are key symptoms, additional signs of fibromyalgia (i.e. memory loss, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, urinary issues – just to name a few), are also linked to other health issues. In fact, many times the condition is misdiagnosed for the following illnesses: sleep apnea, hypothyroidism, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and malignancy.

Another major issue when it comes to misdiagnosis and fibromyalgia, is that it is entirely possible for someone to have another condition that co-exists with the illness. A fine example of this is the fact that an individual can suffer from arthritis, obstructive sleep apnea, or even Lyme disease, and also have to deal with fibromyalgia as a secondary illness.

Doctors, especially those who may not have any experience or familiarity with fibromyalgia, could find themselves reviewing symptoms for another condition, failing to see the signs and symptoms of this illness staring them in the face. Most fibromyalgia diagnosis are conducted via a simple physical exam, with some questions for patients as well.

As with any illness or condition, early detection is key in order to place a patient on a healthy treatment plan. While fibromyalgia is not a fatal disease, it does impair one’s quality of life; therefore, being given appropriate treatment, as early as possible, is vital for someone with the condition, to ensure they continue with their normal, busy, and active lifestyle.