Common Misdiagnoses of Fibromyalgia
Overly Specific Diagnostic Criteria continued...
The criteria helped set up an objective way to identify people with fibromyalgia. But some experts and patients feel the criteria may be too specific.
For example, this method of diagnosis doesn't include people with unexplained widespread pain who have only have 10 or fewer tender points that could be identified. So someone with 10 of the 18 points would not technically be diagnosed as having fibromyalgia.
Also, men are 10 times less likely than women to develop tender points. So some men with other symptoms of fibromyalgia besides tender points may not be getting properly diagnosed.
Using tender points as criteria for fibromyalgia may also create another dilemma. With treatment, the tender points in many people diminish. So that raises a question: If a person no longer has 11 tender points, does he or she still have fibromyalgia?
Still another problem is that the exam process for identifying tender points has seldom been taught in medical schools. So many doctors may not know how to properly do the exam.
New Diagnostic Criteria May Make Diagnosis Easier
Within the last few years, the American College of Rheumatology has been revisiting the criteria for diagnosing fibromyalgia. There is now a preliminary set of new criteria that does not rely on tender points. The criteria will be easier for health care providers to use.
The new criteria are based on a report of symptoms. An interview with the patient determines the severity of the symptoms and how widespread they are.
The new approach to diagnosis is still being evaluated. But experts are optimistic it will make it easier to identify fibromyalgia.
There are several important things to keep in mind when thinking about chronic, widespread pain:
- Ongoing chronic pain that is widespread is not in your head. Pain is real and needs to be evaluated.
- Keeping a journal of your pain symptoms will make it easier to talk with your doctor about the pain. It will help make sure the doctor has the information needed to properly evaluate your condition.
- Consultation with a pain specialist (usually a rheumatologist) who is familiar with fibromyalgia can help diagnose or rule out fibromyalgia as a cause of the pain.
- There are effective treatments for fibromyalgia that can reverse the debilitating effect of the pain and greatly improve a person's quality of life.