Recognition of fibromyalgia as a condition by health professionals in Northern Ireland has been welcomed by the founder of a charity set up to support those struggling with the illness.
A chronic, long-term pain condition, fibromyalgia has been described as a ‘hidden illness’ by the founder of Fibromyalgia Awareness NI, David Moore.
David, who is himself a fibromyalgia sufferer, said that because the condition is difficult to diagnose, the public and even health professionals have had the tendency to dismiss patients’ concerns as imaginary.
“The common thing to hear is that it is ‘all in your head’ and that is something people have even heard from GPs in the past,” he said.
“There is no real test to diagnose fibromyalgia at the moment so it is usually diagnosed through a process of elimination of other conditions. Once the conditions such as osteoarthritis, MS, neurological and muscular diseases, are eliminated, doctors will begin to look at fibromyalgia.
“Fibromyalgia patients might look ok on the outside but it might have taken a week to build up the energy for everyday tasks. You don’t see the after effects of even daily, ordinary tasks. The condition is so overwhelming for people that it wears them down and it breaks them. Living with fibromyalgia is something that can lead people to depression.
“You are talking about constant pain. There are days where I can’t even get out of bed at all. Even walking down the driveway to my house can be too much to bear.”
The news comes after three years of campaigning by the Patient and Client Council in Northern Ireland. David said: “It is great news to hear fibromyalgia will be taken seriously.”
UUP health spokesperson, Jo-Anne Dobson MLA, said a new dedicated care pathway for fibromyalgia sufferers is to be welcomed.
“Now that a ‘pathway’ is being put in place we must also see improvements in services,” she said.