Board-certified osteopathic family physician and frequent on-air health expert, Dr. Jennifer Caudle joined me recently to discuss fibromyalgia- from who is at risk of the disease to symptoms and treatment options.
Candace Rose: What is fibromyalgia, and who is at risk for the disease?
Dr. Jennifer Caudle: "Fibromyalgia is a complex pain disorder. People with fibromyalgia tend to have a lot of pain. It can be in certain parts of the body or the entire body; it can come and go, but people often describe the pain as being very severe. The other part to fibromyalgia is often other systems coexist like headaches, depression, or anxiety, insomnia, or fatigue. So fibromyalgia is really a combination between having pain and often having some of these other symptoms as well."
Candace Rose: Are there some symptoms of fibromyalgia that are just unique to fibromyalgia or do they coincide with other diseases?
Dr. Jennifer Caudle: "Well, that's a really interesting question, actually because fibromyalgia there are other disease states that are very similar to fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia does have the pain as well as the other symptoms. But it's true that every patient with this condition is very, very different. There's no 'one size fits all'; any two patients with fibromyalgia could be complete opposites, as a matter of fact. So it really is an individualized condition."
Candace Rose: Is it true that some don't even realize the disease?
Dr. Jennifer Caudle: "It's very true. We know that almost 10 million- perhaps 10 million- people in this country have fibromyalgia. The American Osteopathic Association recently conducted a survey which showed that 1 out of 3 people have actually never heard of fibromyalgia, and don't even know that's a condition. So a lot of this is about education and talking to people about what fibromyalgia is, and who it can affect and what we can do about it."
Candace Rose: How is it diagnosed?
Dr. Jennifer Caudle: "It's really a clinical diagnosis, which means that as a physician what I do is I need to take a good history and physical; take a look at all the facts, and kind of put things together. Fibromyalgia is not diagnosed by using blood work or by taking x-rays. Often times if we do that it's that we're trying to make sure that it's not something else. So fibromyalgia is often one of those conditions that we have to sort of work to get the diagnose at. But it can be done, and this is where really starting with your physician is very important."
Candace Rose: How does it affect a person's lifestyle?
Dr. Jennifer Caudle: "It can affect people in so many different ways. You know, the people who are most commonly affected are women. 75-90% of people who have fibromyalgia are women, and of the women the typical age is about 20-50 years old. And I've had patients tell me they feel like sometimes they can't get out of bed in the morning, they feel like they've been hit by a truck, they have difficulty functioning and sort of carrying out their normal activities; so it really can be debilitating."
Candace Rose: What type of physician would you recommend someone who is having symptoms of fibromyalgia see?
Dr. Jennifer Caudle: "Sure. First and foremost I always recommend going to a physician that you're comfortable with. I tell this to my friends and family all the time. You have to really see someone that you are comfortable speaking with, who will listen to your concerns and really go through things. I'm an osteopathic family physician, and as a family doc I see everything from blood pressure to asthma to fibromyalgia. I think having someone that you can talk to is very important.
Treatments for fibromyalgia range from medications to therapy to physical therapy to counseling. As an osteopathic physician I have this additional tool in my tool kit, I have the ability to use my hands to diagnose and treat patients musculoskeletal problems. And this often is a great modality using for patients with fibromyalgia. So the first thing is to find a doctor that you really trust and can talk with; then the next step is going through the different options for treatment."
Candace Rose: Are there any new treatment options?
Dr. Jennifer Caudle: "You know, I think the treatment options that we have now are many of the treatments that we've had for a while- I should say except for medications. We do now have three FDA approved medications for the treatment of fibromyalgia, and over the last few years they have come out, and that's very important. But in terms of aqua therapy, physical therapy, yoga, osteopathic manipulative therapy or treatment, counseling- those are about the same and are good ones to keep in mind."
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional information you'd like to share?
Dr. Jennifer Caudle: "Absolutely. It's important to go to our website. You can go to the American Osteopathic Association's website: it's at Osteopathic.org/Fibro. At the site you can take a quiz, you can get a sense of your symptoms, you can jot them down, and this is a great tool to take to your physician to have a further conversation."
Candace Rose: And where can viewers go to to learn more about you?