Did Feminist Icon and Artist Frida Kahlo Suffer from Fibromyalgia?
Unapologetic, eccentric, fierce, proud and beautiful are just a few words used to describe Frida Kahlo and her artwork. Recently, art historians along with medical personnel began to analyze her paintings to find why she suffered from chronic and physical pain. Their theory? That the famous painter actually suffered from fibromyalgia. Their evidence is not only based off her paintings, but they were also from her history.
When Kahlo was 18 years old, she was involved in a horrific streetcar accident that left her with significant injuries. Because she was in a critical state, her doctors did not believe that she would survive. Really, it was a miracle that she did. Kahlo was confined to a bed for two whole years before she was back on her feet again. However, from that point on, her life was never the same.
It was during her very long and painful recovery that Kahlo began painting. Eventually, she discovered how to express herself through her artwork. Soon, art became a passion and her passion brought us her iconic paintings. Through her self-portraits alone, you can see tales of her journey through chronic pain, miscarriages, extreme fatigue and loneliness.
By analyzing the details of her injuries, her the symptoms, and her 44 self-portraits, researchers theorized that the artist could have developed fibromyalgia. While Kahlo could have had the disorder, a diagnosis would not have been possible. In fact, fibromyalgia wasn't considered a disease until 1980 and it took another 11 years before the guidelines and criteria were placed for an accurate diagnosis.
This meant, that Kahlo could have suffered from a disease that she did not know she even had. She and her doctors could have believed that her symptoms were just residual effects from her previous accident.
Even today, receiving an accurate diagnosis of fibromyalgia can take years. Fibromyalgia has many different symptoms that mimic the symptoms of other disorders. However, fibromyalgia is becoming more recognized and accepted. Fibromyalgia is considered to be a syndrome that affects multiple part of the body, including the muscles, soft tissues, and joints. With fibromyalgia, patients experience chronic muscle pain, extreme fatigue and sleep issues. Most treatment options, however, do not work for the symptoms. But, patients are usually prescribed medications and make lifestyle changes to manage their symptoms.
Photo source: Frida Kahlo by Dolldiva