Invisible but Real: Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Although things have begun to improve, women are still too often dismissed and even ridiculed for health complaints such as pain and fatigue. No matter what society says, these feelings should not be a part of everyday life. Two chronic conditions that sometimes underlie lasting pain and tiredness when no other illnesses are present are fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
These are two distinct conditions, even though they sometimes occur at the same time. Fibromyalgia is characterised by widespread, inexplicable pain throughout the body, whereas chronic fatigue syndrome, as its name suggests, causes excessive tiredness. The conditions are similar in that they are both elusive—they present as vague, long-lasting symptoms without a clear cause—and they are diagnosed in female patients much more often than in their male counterparts.
Pain and fatigue are extremely common symptoms that accompany most health conditions from common stress to life-threatening cancer. When a symptom becomes chronic the pain stimuli live on in the body even after the physical injury has healed. However, that does not mean it’s “all in your head”.
Both the modern medical establishment and holistic practitioners have now understood that these seemingly minor symptoms can be extremely complex. When they go on for extended periods and interfere with your day-to-day activities, there is no such thing as “just” pain or “just” tiredness. And feeling crummy is definitely not “just an unavoidable part of being a woman”. All too often such symptoms are attributed to PMS and not investigated further.
Period Tracker & Calendar
You can track your period using WomanLog. Download WomanLog now:
You can track your period using WomanLog. Download WomanLog now:
We have written about various types of pain and tiredness and a variety of conditions that can cause these symptoms. Discomfort is your body’s way of signalling that something is off and should be addressed so you can feel better again.
When dealing with chronic pain and/or tiredness, a blood test is a must. The results will indicate which other diagnostic tests should be performed to eliminate possible illnesses and external factors. If no cause presents itself over time, some doctors might dismiss the symptoms. However, if you continue to feel debilitating effects, no matter how vague, keep looking for other causes and ways to improve your quality of life.
If you face a dismissive attitude from medical personnel and the people around you, don’t be afraid to ask for second and third opinions to get to the bottom of the issue.
Both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are relatively recent discoveries. Chronic fatigue syndrome was first described in the late 1980s, and fibromyalgia only in the 1990s. Both conditions are still somewhat controversial. Not all doctors agree on their characteristics and even on their existence. Nevertheless, experiencing pain and tiredness over the long-term is bound to be detrimental to a person’s well-being. The good news is that patient-reported symptoms are now considered valuable information, which was not always the case. Positive or indeterminate test results are no longer sufficient reason to ignore a patient’s experience.
Fibromyalgia, or fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a common condition where the patient experiences chronic widespread pain within the body, brain fog, poor sleep, and general exhaustion with no clear cause. Between 2 and 4% of people worldwide are believed to have this condition.
Some of the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
Widespread pain, often in unidentifiable areas of the body
Lack of refreshing sleep, exhaustion
Sensitivity to cold and heat
Pain is considered widespread when it is felt in the left and right sides and the upper and lower parts of the body. The term “chronic widespread pain” is sometimes used interchangeably with “fibromyalgia”. There are no decisive diagnostic tests that can be performed to identify fibromyalgia as it resembles and overlaps with many other conditions. For a patient to receive a diagnosis of fibromyalgia to be diagnosed, they must report experiencing a number of the symptoms listed above over a longer period of time.
The main causes of fibromyalgia are thought to be genetic factors, and certain environmental or psychological triggers that can set off the condition, including:
Psychological trauma—experiencing a traumatic event
Physical trauma that becomes chronic pain
Lifestyle risk factors such as smoking, obesity, and others
If a person is genetically predisposed to fibromyalgia and has also experienced a health concern that isn’t properly treated, the condition may develop. Researchers now believe that people with fibromyalgia may have heightened sensitivity to pain in general and their neurotransmitters are “wired” to make the sensation of pain stronger.
Fibromyalgia is a real condition that takes a serious toll on a person’s physical and mental well-being. The brain fog that comes with it, sometimes called “fibrofog”, can be just as detrimental to one’s quality of life as the physical pain.
Treatments for fibromyalgia
As the mechanisms that underlie the condition remain unclear, only the symptoms can currently be treated. As with most chronic conditions, there is no real cure for fibromyalgia, but treating the various symptoms and working to improve overall health can be extremely effective.
Treating separate symptoms can improve your quality of life surprisingly well, making the condition manageable.
Treatments for fibromyalgia include:
Using over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen, and others to reduce pain and inflammation
Taking antidepressants to counter mental fog and improve sleep
Engaging in cognitive behavioural therapy or some other form of psychotherapy that can help sufferers develop strategies for living with the condition.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome exists in something of a grey area. If a patient experiences at least six months of excessive tiredness that affects their ability to function physically and mentally and does not improve with rest, they may be diagnosed with CFS.
Other names for this condition are myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and systemic exertional intolerance disease (SEID). Chronic fatigue syndrome is characterized by:
Long-lasting exhaustion that does not improve with sleep or rest
Sleep difficulties of various kinds
Disrupted sleep and lasting fatigue can arise from myriad internal and external circumstances—almost any underlying health condition will cause fatigue, as will having a stressful and demanding schedule or something as trivial as using the wrong mattress/pillow or having a partner who snores.
However, when a person experiences extreme fatigue for over six months even though they are making adequate time for sleep (7–8 hours) and no other illness can be identified through diagnostic testing, they may be suffering from what is now recognized as chronic fatigue syndrome.
CFS has no clear cause. It can start after an injury, an infection, or a traumatic event, or for some other reason. Researchers believe that patients with chronic fatigue syndrome are genetically predisposed to having a low tolerance for lack of sleep and becoming exhausted faster.
If you have been diagnosed with CFS or are experiencing the symptoms of long-term exhaustion, treat tiredness like a recovering addict treats alcohol—even a little is too much. Take it easy.
Don’t provoke your body. After recovering from chronic fatigue, you might be tempted to go back to living as you did before, pushing yourself to get things done and enjoying late-night parties, but that can severely disrupt your body’s energy levels and reignite the CFS.
Treatments for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
There are even fewer options for treating chronic fatigue syndrome than there are for treating fibromyalgia. Tiredness is an all-encompassing symptom; how much energy we have is intrinsically linked with everything we do, and we must sleep every day. For most of us it is impossible to achieve perfect refreshing slumber 100% of the time, especially when our schedules and family situations demand our energy attention and energy at unpredictable times.
Establish routines to alleviate stress. Create the healthiest schedule you can for yourself and commit to it.
Nourish your body. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated throughout the day and eat healthy, nutritious foods. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and inflammatory foods that mess with your sleep. Make things easier for yourself by setting up a convenient grocery shopping and meal schedule to ensure your body is getting what it needs.
Ask your doctor to prescribe pain/anxiety medications to combat migraines and the other effects of disrupted sleep that often come with chronic fatigue syndrome.
Live an active, healthy lifestyle. However, if you are experiencing chronic fatigue syndrome, be mindful of your personal limit for how much physical and mental activity you can handle right now. Overdoing it can worsen the CFS and condition
Living with a chronic condition
The symptoms of both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome can be effectively managed, although it does take considerable effort. What makes living with a chronic condition that much harder is that the struggle is often invisible to the rest of the world.
When living with a condition for which there is no known cure it is possible to adapt and go on with your life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean things will get easier. For some people, they do, for others—not so much.
Women have historically been expected to bear the pain and fatigue that come with having periods, raising children, and running a household (in addition to holding down a job). To some extent these problems are unavoidable, but not to the point where you are suffering 24/7. We all deserve to be listened to and to have our symptoms taken seriously.
Take things one step at a time. Track your symptoms to really understand the condition and how your body is reacting to it. Then begin with small lifestyle changes that create improvements or bring relief. Trust the information your body is giving you and respect its needs; then you will be better prepared to face whatever comes your way.
You can track your period using WomanLog. Download WomanLog now:
Everyone who’s had to deal with greasy hair knows how annoying and inconvenient it can be. But sometimes, it’s more than just a nuisance. A greasy scalp is prone to irritation, dandruff, and other skin conditions. To get rid of excess oil on your scalp, you must get to the root of the problem. Find out what contributes to greasy hair and learn nine ways to reduce excess oil production.
Vaginal mycoses, or vaginal yeast infection (also called candidal vulvovaginitis, vaginal thrush, or candidiasis) is extremely common. Mycoses is found in about 20% of vaginal secretions tested in laboratories. The pain and discomfort caused by this condition often requires immediate medical attention.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STD in the world: there is a very good chance that you will get at least one type of HPV during your lifetime. Preventative measures include practicing good hygiene and safe sex, getting tested regularly, and getting vaccinated, the last of which we focus on in this article.
We all have days when we don’t feel fully at home in our bodies. Societal beauty standards, pressure from the media, and advertisements from the fitness and beauty industries can all work against our self-confidence at times. The most intense manifestation of negative body perception is called Body Dysmorphic Disorder, or BDD. No matter how we feel about our bodies, we can improve that relationship. It is possible to recover from BDD.
Many of us dream of having perfect curls—including people with naturally curly hair. This hair type is misunderstood surprisingly often and having a head of full of healthy and attractive curly, wavy, or kinky-coily hair remains a difficult but not impossible goal.
Going to the gynaecologist can be daunting, especially if it’s your first time or if you have had a previous negative experience. Fear not! Reproductive health is an important aspect of your health, and you are in control of who you choose as your doctor and what happens at the appointment.
The choice of dietary supplements available in any given drugstore, let alone online, is vast. They promise to provide us with vitamins, minerals, and other vital nutrients in the form of pills, drops, capsules, and powders. Some of these can be truly useful while others are merely money-making fads for their producers, and some can even be quite harmful if used recklessly or purchased from an unreliable seller.
Millions of people take prescription and illicit drugs for medical or recreational reasons. When such substances are taken without precaution, they can develop into an addiction. Drug addiction is dangerous to the affected person and the people close to them.
You may have experienced heartburn after eating or at other times during the day. Despite their menacing names, heartburn and acid reflux are common (yes, there is a slight difference between the two), and are not considered disorders on their own. They do, however, cause discomfort and can indicate a more serious problem if the sensation lingers for too long or occurs too often.
Any abusive relationship, be it with a parent, sibling, or romantic partner, leaves scars. Moving forward with your life can be daunting enough, let alone building the foundations for a new healthy relationship.
Hormones are responsible for myriad bodily functions, and they affect our bodies in myriad ways, including our mood. Since the menstrual cycle features so many different hormonal processes, most women experience related emotional symptoms.
Endometriosis is a gynaecological condition caused by the presence of endometrial cells outside the uterus. It is known to be a leading cause of infertility in women. There is no known cure, but there are plenty of treatment options for combating symptoms.
Beautiful, well-cared-for nails are aesthetically pleasing and also indicate good general health. When the body lacks essential nutrients, the first indicators often appear in our hair and nails. While the way we groom our hands and feet can be a way of expressing personality, our nails have other functions, too.
If there is does not happen to be a toilet nearby, there is nothing dangerous about holding your pee for a while. It happens to everyone, and the unpleasant feeling will be forgotten as soon as you finally have the opportunity to relieve yourself.
A new member of the coronavirus family was first identified in December 2019. Over the past several months this new or novel coronavirus has spread around the world causing a global pandemic. This virus, COVID-19, is very contagious and causes mild to severe flu-like symptoms, especially affecting the respiratory organs and heart. Almost two million people have been infected worldwide and more than 100, 000 have died.
If you ask someone what migraine is, chances are they will tell you it’s a kind of severe headache. While partially true, this is an oversimplification. In this article, we explore the stages, symptoms, and myths associated with migraine, and discuss various coping strategies that help mitigate symptoms.
A clenched jaw is an unfortunate side-effect of a stressful life. You may be overworking your jaw if you grind your teeth at night, eat too many hard foods, or have a bad posture! If left untreated, these symptoms can lead to chronic issues known as TMJ disorders.
The number of men and women who suffer from heart disease is very similar. However, women are less likely to receive life-saving treatment for a heart attack because patients and doctors often don’t recognize the characteristic symptoms and dismiss them as stress or anxiety.
The philosopher’s stone, the elixir of immortality, the universal panaceas, the fountain of youth—these are all legends about the secret to extreme longevity. People have been thinking about eternal youth as long as there have been people. Slowing the signs of ageing with anti-ageing treatments is one way to postpone the inevitable changes. However, such procedures can only influence visible processes and have minimal to no impact on our overall longevity. Yet many people spend a great deal of money to look young for as long as possible. In this article, we will discuss anti-ageing treatments and how to care for ageing skin.
Urinary incontinence affects 200 million people worldwide. People who develop incontinence experience urine leakage, lack of bladder control, and the frequent urge to urinate. It mainly affects older, pregnant, or postpartum women. Although many women choose to live with the discomfort, urinary incontinence can be reversed by improving one's lifestyle and incorporating regular pelvic muscle exercises.
Millions of people across the globe use antidepressants to cope with depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Although not a cure, the right antidepressant can be incredibly helpful with treating symptoms.
Food is a necessity in our lives. It gives us energy and nourishes our bodies. But sometimes, what is supposed to provide us with vitality takes it away. People with eating disorders use food as a crutch for dealing with negative or overwhelming emotions until their relationship with it becomes unhealthy.
Preventative testing is a powerful tool in the battle against conditions that worsen over time. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the preventative measures you can take to tackle HPV-related cancers.
Tattoos are not a new invention, many cultures have a long history of using tattoos in their religious and symbolic practices, or purely for aesthetic reasons. Tattoos were reintroduced into popular Western culture in the 20th century. Artists such as Lyle Tuttle, Cliff Raven, and Don Nolan were some of the people who influenced the re-emergence of tattoos.
Toxic shock syndrome is an acute, potentially fatal infection caused by staph or strep bacteria. Both types of bacteria can live harmlessly on your skin and in your nose and mouth—it is when there’s an overgrowth within the body that problems occur. The condition is commonly linked to the use of highly absorbent tampons during menstruation.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about many changes in our daily lives, including the new norm of wearing a protective face mask while out in public. The mask provides necessary protection against the virus, however prolonged use can have an impact on your skin.
Millions of women worldwide struggle with hair loss. Human hair growth passes through four stages. At the end, a hair is shed, and a new hair begins to grow from the follicle. However, a stressful lifestyle, poor diet, hormonal imbalances, and certain illnesses can cause excessive hair loss and pattern baldness in women.
Uterine prolapse affects nearly half of all post-menopausal women. This is a serious health concern that often requires medical or even surgical intervention. However, there are ways to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles to help you avoid uterine prolapse later in life.
The only sure method of birth control is abstinence, they say. While it’s true that if you never have sex, you cannot become pregnant, there are several methods of surgical contraception, or sterilization, that are also nearly 100% effective. What are they and why is this topic so heavily stigmatized?
Sweating is a natural bodily function—all of us sweat regardless of age, gender, or intensity of physical activity. Sometimes we notice changes in how much we sweat or how our sweat smells. There are reasons for these changes.
Brain fog is a common experience that can happen to anyone due to lack of sleep, certain medications, or exhaustion after heavy physical activity. However, many menstruating people experience brain fog right before menstruation, and sometimes the symptoms are so intense that they disrupt daily life.
A urinary tract infection or UTI is a bacterial infection usually caused by gastroin-testinal bacteria that has travelled from the anal tract to the urinary tract. The condition is uncomfortable and painful, and, if left untreated, can lead to kidney damage.
Many of us only truly learn to love ourselves and our bodies fairly late in life. Prior to that, we tend to spend time and energy judging ourselves about things we cannot change. Self-love is a skill made difficult to attain by the very impractical beauty standards that are popular today.
Everybody has it, and an individual smell is a completely natural part of having a body. Having a strong body odor can become a problem in interpersonal communication, though. And sudden changes in your body odor can also signal underlying health issues – or, in some cases, simply changes in your hormone levels.
There is a lot of online content aimed at women and a lot of that focuses on our health and wellbeing. We may have moved past the toxic diet and dating trends of the early 2000s but, sadly, misinformation in the realm of “feminine” topics is still rampant and can take many different forms. This article will help you recognise unreliable information so you can avoid it.
They say you are what you eat. This idea can be helpful, provided we know what we are eating (which we often don’t). It can be very tempting to rely on an outside source to give us a list of special ingredients that will magically solve all our problems.
Many of us enjoy the occasional drink. Alcohol consumption has played a central role in almost all human cultures since at least about 4000 BC. The development of agrarian societies was based on the cultivation of grain to make bread and, the evidence tells us, to make alcohol. From the earliest recorded use of alcohol, drinking has been a social activity subject to local cultural norms.
Pain is a universal human experience, but it is also highly individual. It can be hard to evaluate the exact cause of pain, but it is always a signal that something potentially dangerous is happening to your body.
Procrastination, forgetfulness, irritability, and anxiety are all normal parts of human life. For people with ADHD, however, these are some of the more common challenges they face every day. For them it is nearly impossible to “get it together” and “stop being lazy”. Even the simplest tasks can require excessive effort, which is hard to understand if you don’t have ADHD. Women especially have trouble getting diagnosed and treated for ADHD.
Humans have an innate need for social interactions, including physical touch. Touch is vital for a person’s wellbeing. As the Covid-19 pandemic mandates social distancing, many of us are left touch starved. What are the consequences, and is it possible to compensate for this deficit?
Almost no one would refuse a relaxing massage after a long day’s work. Massages can be therapeutic, a medical necessity, part of an athletic training routine, or even a spiritual journey. Regardless, massage is a great way to take care of your body.
Acne is a widespread skin condition, well known as a teenage issue, although it also affects adults. It can be tempting to cover it up (with makeup or otherwise), but this is, at best, a temporary solution and is more likely to make things worse.
This is a question a lot of us have been asking ourselves lately. Sometimes it is unavoidable, in certain situations completely understandable, but being tired should not be a constant state. Being “always tired” is often normalized and even romanticized to an extreme in our society, but it is actually very dangerous. Excessive tiredness is always a sign from your body that something might be off. Let’s look at the most common explanations behind constantly feeling tired and some possible solutions.
It won’t come as a surprise when I tell you that smoking is unhealthy. Even so, many people still smoke regularly. Even those who consider themselves to be non-smokers, occasionally smoke when out with friends for a drink.
The human body is naturally covered in hair and still we have a long history of going to great lengths to remove it. Contrary to some beliefs, body hair removal serves a purely aesthetic purpose. This makes the choice to leave it there or get rid of it up to you.
Going green is important for the health and safety of our own bodies, as well as the safety of our planet. Making green choices and reducing your environmental footprint can start with your feminine hygiene routine.
Where do children come from? All parents eventually get this question. There are many different ways to explain the complicated process of forming of a new life to a child, but our answer is a short and precise—children come from the uterus.
Vision is one of the primary senses humans use to interact with and learn about the world. It is also the main tool used in most jobs worldwide. In addition, our lives increasingly happen through digital screens, creating an even higher risk of overworking the eyes.
Throughout a woman’s lifetime, her body goes through many changes. Menopause is a significant transformation, marking the end of a woman’s reproductive life. This transition isn’t necessarily an easy one. It can go on for many years, and many women experience symptoms that disrupt their lives. Hormone replacement therapy is one way to reduce the impact of the most challenging symptoms. In this article, we will discuss the benefits and risks of hormone replacement therapy.