Serious Pain Disorders Often
Misdiagnosed for Women Patients

We consider doctors to have little to no bias in their professions. However, when a condition cannot be seen in any tests or examinations, will that lack of bias stand?

Fibromyalgia, also known as FMS, is a chronic pain disorder that can cause symptoms of widespread pain or tenderness in certain points of the body. It is diagnosed in around 10 million people each year. Eight out of ten who are diagnosed are female.

Some of the other symptoms include depression or anxiety, migraines, sleep apnea, and headaches. Data suggests that fibromyalgia occurs when the patient is stressed or in a difficult situation. Because of this, many of the options provided for patients are based around a combination of psychological and physical therapies. Unfortunately, there is no known cure, only temporary methods used to lessen the effects.

In addition, fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose. Part of this is because all of the symptoms can be attributed to other illnesses. Some of these illnesses include thyroid dysfunction, rheumatoid arthritis, and other types of arthritis. Not just that, but all of these illnesses can occur alongside fibromyalgia. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia is more commonly seen coinciding with it than not. If that wasn't enough, it also cannot be seen in any blood tests, or any other examinations that we know of. This can obviously cause many problems with misdiagnosing the illness, giving a lot of trouble to patients who have to go through it.

Many of those who suffer from fibromyalgia are discriminated against. For example, a 2007 survey showed that more than 25 percent of 2,000 people said that their health care providers did not consider their illness a “very legitimate disorder.” This strongly affects many fibromyalgia patients. In fact, some patients completely withdraw from those around them.

Many people have come forward with stories of their healthcare providers – even their neurologists – telling them that their symptoms were just in their head, and instead, they should be visiting a psychologist. This is obviously degrading to many of the patients, and also can cause them to lose faith in their doctors, making it even harder to diagnose.

Many members of the medical community feel that this prejudice may also be a sign of sexism in the field because eight out of ten who are diagnosed are female.

”Why in our society are we so free to dismiss the complaints of 30- to 50-year-old women? Why can we marginalize their experience so easily? It really does come down to gender politics. Why can we marginalize her and disregard her complaint, and yet if she were a man the same age we might take her seriously?” stated Patrick Wood, MD.

Also, in one case of the neurologist not believing a patient, the neurologist actually told her husband instead of her, saying that she should visit a psychiatrist. This makes the situation even worse and shows an obvious case of discrimination.

Overall, the lack of acknowledgment for a serious disorder such as fibromyalgia has caused harm not just to the individuals who deal with this, but also to the medical profession as a whole.

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