Singer Lady Gaga. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/58/Lady_Gaga_en_el_desfile_de_Vistoria%27s_Secret._%28Par%C3%ADs%29.jpg
The pop singer Lady Gaga recently announced via Twitter that her recent documentary will discuss fibromyalgia. “I wish to raise awareness and connect people who have [fibromyalgia]…. we can all share what helps and hurts,” she stated. Lady Gaga first revealed that she struggled with the disease back in 2013, when she also revealed its potential causes.
The film was first shown at the Toronto Film Festival, where indie films and commentaries are given a spotlight. The documentary titled Gaga Five Foot Two focuses on a behind the scenes style look at Gaga’s music career and recently launched on Netflix on September 22nd, 2017. Gaga’s Twitter account has been blowing up with posts from fans in support of her career and her struggle with the disease.
Although there is no cure for the disease, Gaga shares in the documentary ways to relieve the symptoms and how to manage it with a busy career. Although she hasn’t offered details on her condition, she stated on her Twitter that the documentary will reveal a lot about her personal struggle and how heavy this disease has impacted her.
“The pain and disability seen in fibromyalgia is typically worse than almost any other chronic pain condition,” stated Dr. Daniel Clauw, professor of anesthesiology, medicine/rheumatology, and psychiatry at the University of Michigan. “The pain doesn’t just affect one area of the body, you can avoid moving, and often its accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory, and other issues,” Clauw noted.
"Most of the patients we encounter in our research studies are significantly impacted by the disorder," researcher Loggia added, "which sometimes prevents them from having normal work and social lives.”
The History of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia was first recognized as a disease back in 1987 by the American Medical Association (AMA) and is known as one the most common chronic pain disorders. The National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association (NFMCPA) indicates that the illness affects up to 4% of the world’s population and over 10 million Americans. While it is more commonly found in women (over 80%), this disease has affected men and women of all ages. Some of the symptoms include widespread pain, fatigue, poor sleeping patterns, memory loss, poor concentration and other symptoms. The NFMCPA has stated that it can also increase sensitivity to light and sound, as well as distress and anxiety.
How Does it Develop?
Similar to many diseases like celiac and lupus, it is not entirely clear what the exact cause of fibromyalgia is. The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease acknowledges that the cause is classified as unknown. Experts have suggested that it is likely caused by several factors, including exposure to a traumatic event (a car wreck, for example) and an exposure to repetitive injuries. Genetic predisposition to feel pain on a more significant level and a disturbance in the central nervous system (CNS) have also been linked to fibromyalgia. Studies have been conducted that also show a connection between small nerve fibers and the development of fibromyalgia. The studies conducted showed abnormalities that occurred within the peripheral nerves.
Another study has indicated that brain inflammation may be a part of the development of the disease. Brain inflammation is also an additional symptom people feel who suffer from chronic back pain, which is the case with many fibromyalgia patients. Dr. Clauw has stated that the failure to pin-point the actual cause of the disease has caused the mindset of it not being a real disease, or something that sufferers just imagine or exaggerate. Many researchers have said that this is not the case, but the exact cause of fibromyalgia may never be fully identified.
"Traditionally, patients with fibromyalgia have been met with a great deal of skepticism, stigma and even condescension, including by many physicians that are supposed to take care of them," Loggia says. "Even today, their pain is often dismissed as 'all in their head,' not real," he added.
“What patients need now are better drug and non-drug treatments,” stated Dr. Clauw. "We've only begun to take this condition seriously from a research standpoint for about 20 to 30 years," he noted, adding that there are no "really effective" drugs for fibromyalgia.
Symptoms and Effects
The main symptom of fibromyalgia is chronic pain that can often occur from the slightest touch. The pain is often acute and even a prick of a pen or a brush of a cloth can send fibromyalgia patients into a overwhelming sense of pain and discomfort. In other words, essentially every small poke or bump is felt as 10/10 pain for those who suffer from the disorder. This often occurs in specific areas of the body. Researchers often look at specific body parts to determine where the pain is and what they can do to release the symptoms. There are usually around 18 different areas that feel pain on a higher level in fibromyalgia patients, known as tender points.
While pain is the main problem in this disorder, other issues have been found in people who suffer from fibromyalgia. Many feel a loss of a good night’s rest, which can cause fatigue and even effect mood. With any person who is not getting the rest they need, depression and anxiety can become a strong side effect of losing sleep and suffering from fatigue. One of the interesting symptoms of fibromyalgia is known as brain fog. People who lose sleep excessively may develop a foggy brain and may not be able to focus on daily tasks. Often, patients can sleep a few hours a day or not all, then sleep for over 12 hours at night. The symptoms all connect back to the chronic pain. Each symptoms develops more profoundly the longer the patients goes without some sort of treatment. Though the condition itself is not fatal, many with depression can often develop suicidal thoughts.
How Fibromyalgia Affects Women
Hormones have been found to play a pivotal role in the development of fibromyalgia, as woman are more prone to suffer from it. It is more prevalent in women, with a ratio of around 5:1 women to men. The fact that women are more prone to fibromyalgia has made it harder to determine the cause of the disease. Researchers found that the condition is seen as more a historically female disease and not a common one among various persons. Often, men receive misdiagnosis because they describe symptoms differently. Women have reported a higher pain intensity then men, and statistically men also visit the doctor less frequently. The reason for pain intensity may be connected to hormones, immune systems, and genes. However, researchers still are not sure why women have a higher risk for developing the disease than men.