Results from a national survey of U.S. women with fibromyalgia illustrate the private and prolonged physical and emotional struggles patients with this condition face, underscored by delays in diagnosis, which a majority of respondents report as being 1 year or longer. As a result of fibromyalgia, 67% of respondents say they are unable to keep up with household chores, 47% report that their work life or career has been negatively affected, and 42% spend less quality time with their friends. Nearly 31% said fibromyalgia has negatively affected their ability to experience intimacy, according to a press release.
“Fibromyalgia is a common medical condition affecting women,” Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, executive director of HealthyWomen.org and a registered nurse, stated in the release. “It is estimated that there could be as many American women living with fibromyalgia as there are living with diabetes.”
Remarkably, 23% of respondents report having suffered for at least 5 years before receiving a diagnosis for their condition. Seventy-one percent of respondents said they waited until they could no longer tolerate their symptoms before seeking a diagnosis. Examples of perceived barriers to a proper diagnosis include patients’ own lack of knowledge about the condition and physicians not recognizing symptoms.
Although fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder, a majority of respondents said they fear skepticism about their condition, with 64% expressing concern about being taken seriously, and 79% indicating the top quality they seek in a health care professional is assurance that their condition is being taken seriously.
“This survey quantifies what patients and their supporters have known and experienced – that stigma, skepticism, lack of knowledge about fibromyalgia, and delays in diagnosis contribute negatively to patient outcomes.” Battaglino Cahill stated. “However, with more knowledge, patients are overcoming these barriers to improving their lives, and that is an important lesson we can take away from this survey.”