In the October issue of Vogue, the 32-year-old pop star talked about her fight against fibromyalgia, a condition that affects the nervous system and causes pain throughout the body.
“I am very irritated by people who do not believe that fibromyalgia is real,” said the singer.
“For me, and I think for many others, it’s really a cyclone of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma and panic disorder, all of which causes the nervous system to accelerate, and as a result you have nerve pain.” People need to be more compassionate.
Chronic pain is no joke. And every day he wakes up without knowing how he is going to feel. ”
Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta, revealed that she suffers from a debilitating condition last September, just before the release of her documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two.
“I want to help raise awareness and connect people who have it,” he tweeted.
For Gaga, the pain has been so strong sometimes that he has not been able to act. In September 2019, she was hospitalized due to “severe pain” and canceled her upcoming concerts.
There are many misunderstandings about fibromyalgia, because until recently, the condition was not widely accepted as a real disease, said Dr. Mary-Ann Fitzcharles, associate professor of medicine in the Rheumatology Division of McGill University.
Many believed that the symptoms of fibromyalgia were “in the head” of people suffering from the disease, as they often look healthy.
“Now it is a fully recognized condition, there is no doubt,” Fitzcharles said. “We have moved away from the idea that all patients have mental illnesses.”
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a condition in which people feel chronic pain in the muscles and tendons, often along with other symptoms such as sleeping problems, headaches or mood disorders, Fitzcharles told Global News.
According to the Arthritis Society of Canada, fibromyalgia affects about two percent of Canadians, although the majority of victims (80 to 90 percent) are women. People between the ages of 20 and 50 are at greater risk of developing the condition, reports the Arthritis Society.
There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, but symptoms can be managed through treatment.
How does fibromyalgia feel?
Fibromyalgia symptoms vary, but include fatigue, interrupted sleep, cognitive dysfunction, irritable bowel syndrome, mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, and migraines. There is a common thread: pain.
“For more than 30 percent of people with fibromyalgia, even a gentle touch and caressing the skin is perceived as unpleasant,” Fitzcharles said.
He also explained that for people with fibromyalgia, their painful symptoms indicate that there is a disconnection between their bodies and the nervous system.
“It’s like the nervous system is on. In many patients, we see evidence of something we call hypervigilance, ”he said. “Therefore, people are too sensitive to loud noises, busy environments and intense light.”
What causes fibromyalgia?
Medical experts are not sure of the exact cause of fibromyalgia, but the disease often goes back to a traumatic event, Fitzcharles said.
“A third of people will say they had completely perfect physical health, and then there was some [significant] event,” Fitzcharles said. “It could have been a serious viral disease, a traumatic event, such as a car accident and a broken bone, [or] a very stressful physiological event that seems to trigger the onset.”
For the other two-thirds of people living with fibromyalgia, Fitzcharles says the condition seems to come out of nowhere. There is a greater chance of developing the condition if your family has a history of fibromyalgia.
Why is it difficult to diagnose fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia has baffled doctors for years. It is difficult to diagnose because there is no standardized test for the condition, and there is also no test to confirm the diagnosis. In addition, the symptoms of people can change frequently and again, those who live with fibromyalgia often look healthy.
“The patient looks absolutely normal. There is no swelling, there is no fever, there is nothing to see. So, even family and friends have a hard time understanding the process, ”Fitzcharles said.
Because it is difficult to identify, he says that patients usually take five years to receive a proper diagnosis.
“What doctors should do [to diagnose it] is to take a good [medical] history of the patient and examine the patient to make sure that one of the conditions that can [appear] as fibromyalgia is not present,” he said.
Then, doctors will do minimal tests to make sure there is no other underlying disease. “We really recommend not performing excessive tests on patients, such as x-rays and excessive MRI.”
How is fibromyalgia treated?
Fitzcharles says that the condition can be treated with medication, but most patients control their disease with self-managed techniques, which include a healthy lifestyle, adequate sleep and minimizing stress.
“Probably the most successful intervention is a regular program of comfortable physical activity,” Fitzcharles said. “Non-pharmacological management is extremely important.”
If a patient requires medication, Fitzcharles said it is important to find medications that help relieve pain, not contribute to it.
“Unfortunately, most of the medications we use have considerable side effects, and many of the side effects may be similar to fibromyalgia symptoms,” he said. “So, if a patient says he has terrible sleep difficulties and [significant] pain, if we can choose a medication that can affect sleep and pain, this is how we go.