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Impairment focus: Fibromyalgia

When you suffer from a disease that is not well-known or that does not display any physical symptoms, it can be difficult or even impossible to receive any understanding or empathy from your family, your boss, or even your doctor. Sadly, this is often the case with fibromyalgia.

Despite the fact that the disease affects some 5.8 million people in California and throughout the United States, many look at fibromyalgia with doubt and disbelief. Yet for those who suffer from the debilitating pain associated with the disease, that skepticism is often the least of their problems.

Fibromyalgia affects people of both genders and all ages, but it is most common among women between the ages of 20 and 50. Although the cause of fibromyalgia is still not known, there are several events or factors that have been proven to trigger or worsen the disease. These include a physical or emotional trauma, an unidentified virus or microbe, an abnormal response to pain or common sleep disturbances.

The most obvious and common symptom of fibromyalgia is pain. This pain occurs at locations throughout the body called "tender points", which are found in the soft tissue on the back of the neck, hips, elbows, shins, knees, shoulders and lower back. Pain then radiates out from these areas. In addition, people with fibromyalgia are commonly afflicted with insomnia and fatigue.

Fibromyalgia is on the Social Security Administration's listing of impairments, which means that people who suffer from the disease may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. In order to do so, applicants will need to prove that the fatigue, pain, and other symptoms significantly hinder your ability to work and perform daily tasks.

Source: Sky Valley Chronicle, "Why Fibromyalgia Gets No Respect," 16 June 2011

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