In the October issue of Vogue, the 32-year-old pop star spoke about her battle with fibromyalgia, a condition that affects the nervous system and causes pain throughout the body.
“I am very irritated by people who do not believe fibromyalgia is real,” said the singer.
“For me, and I think for many others, it is really a cyclone of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma, and panic disorder, all of which cause the nervous system to race, 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 not 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 the people who have it,” he tweeted.
For Gaga, the pain has been so strong at times that she has been unable 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 Division of Rheumatology at McGill University.
Many believed that fibromyalgia symptoms were “in the head” of people with the disease, as they often look healthy.
“Now it’s a fully recognized condition, there’s no question,” Fitzcharles said. “We have moved away from the idea that all patients have mental illness.”
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a condition in which people experience chronic pain in the muscles and tendons, often along with other symptoms such as trouble sleeping, 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 increased 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 stroking the skin is perceived as unpleasant,” Fitzcharles said.
He further explained that for people with fibromyalgia, their painful symptoms indicate that there is a disconnect between their bodies and the nervous system.
“It is as if the nervous system is on. In many patients, we see evidence of something we call hypervigilance, ”he said. “Therefore, people are overly sensitive to loud noises, busy environments, and strong light.”
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Medical experts are unsure of the exact cause of fibromyalgia, but the disease can often be traced back to a traumatic event, Fitzcharles said.
“A third of people will say they were in completely perfect physical health, and then there was some [significant] event,” Fitzcharles said. “It could have been a serious viral illness, a traumatic event, like 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 higher chance of developing the condition if your family has a history of fibromyalgia.
Why is it difficult to diagnose fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia has puzzled 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. Also, people’s symptoms can change frequently and again, those living 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 it typically takes five years for patients to receive a proper diagnosis.
“What doctors need to do [to diagnose it] is take a good [medical] history from the patient and examine the patient to make sure one of the conditions that may [appear] as fibromyalgia is not present,” he said.
Then doctors will run minimal tests to make sure there is no other underlying disease. “We really recommend not doing excessive tests on patients, such as excessive X-rays and MRIs.”
How is fibromyalgia treated?
Fitzcharles says the condition can be treated with medication, but most patients manage their disease with self-managed techniques, including 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.”