Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition consisting of widespread pain and profound fatigue. People with mild to moderate symptoms are usually able to live their lives normally with appropriate treatment. However, in the worst cases, patients can be so severely affected that they will have to give up work and will be affected socially. Other symptoms can include poor sleep quality, cognitive problems (known as ‘fibro-fog’), irritable bowel syndrome and headaches.
Whilst relatively unknown, it is estimated that fibromyalgia affects around one in 20 people. Among the key issues both doctors and patients face with fibromyalgia is the difficulty in diagnosing the condition. The criteria to be diagnosed are as follows: three or six areas of pain in the body at similar level for at least three months and no other possible reason for the symptoms. It is therefore only by ruling out all other conditions that could be causing the symptoms – illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME), rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis – that fibromyalgia can be diagnosed.
The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it is often associated with traumatic events such as car accidents, illness and repetitive injuries. There is no cure for fibromyalgia but medication can be used to ease the symptoms and improve quality of life, and treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy and hydrotherapy can also be used in some cases.
12 May 2020 is International Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. Participants around the world come together annually for this campaign and take part in fundraising events, charity runs, tea parties and other activities. This year however, these events and activities will be much more difficult to achieve given the current rules on social distancing and the ongoing spread of coronavirus around the world. Now more than ever, charities such as Fibromyalgia Action UK need visibility in order to keep generating funds and continue with the vital support work they provide.
To help raise awareness during this time, you can wear purple clothes or a purple ribbon to initiate a conversation about fibromyalgia, or even change your social media profile pictures to a purple ribbon. You could also organise a fundraising day while working from home, whereby colleagues and friends can wear purple and make a small donation to the charity.
The Fibromyalgia Action UK website contains some additional information about the condition as well as links to local support groups. The official UK-wide Fibromyalgia Awareness Week is set to be held by Fibromyalgia Action UK later this year, with plans for it to start on 6 September 2020: this is an opportunity for UK-based groups to raise awareness of the condition within their community, hold local events and invite people to support group meetings.