In Person Examination Critical to Avoid Fibromyalgia Misdiagnosis

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition affecting over 4 million people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is associated with abnormal pain processing — sleep problems, fatigue, and often emotional and mental distress.

The condition is often diagnosed with a medical history questionnaire, and sometimes a physical exam, X Rays, and blood tests.

However, a new study suggests the condition is often misdiagnosed.

The Study in a Nutshell

According to a study published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, using textbook criteria to diagnose someone can lead to a different prognosis than using a clinician’s in-person assessment.

The study involved 497 people attending a rheumatology clinic.

Medical News Today describes the study:

“All of these individuals filled in both a health assessment questionnaire and a questionnaire that the American College of Rheumatology use to assess a person for fibromyalgia symptoms.

“The participants also received consultations and diagnoses from rheumatology clinicians.

“On assessing the results of these evaluations, the researchers found that only 121 (or 24.3 percent) of the initial 497 participants received a fibromyalgia diagnosis from a rheumatology clinician.”

An Attending Physician Critical to Correct Diagnosis

In an editorial accompanying the study, researchers argue that criteria and questionnaires cannot replace the opinion of an attending physician that examines the patient in person.

“This is the only way to capture the variability and severity of interrelated symptoms as they play out over time,” writes Dr. Don Goldenberg from Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, a scientist in the study.

The diagnostic gold standard for fibromyalgia will continue to be the rheumatologist’s expert opinion, not classification criteria, no matter how well-refined and intentioned. This is the only way to capture the variability and severity of interrelated symptoms as they play out over time. There is no short-cut. We are the go-to experts for patients and our colleagues for the diagnosis of fibromyalgia, whether or not we readily accept that role.”

A Treatable Disease if Properly Diagnosed

Proper diagnosis of fibromyalgia is critical for effective treatment. Though the causes of fibromyalgia are not known, it is a highly manageable and treatable disease with proper medical care, a healthy diet, and exercise. At our health and wellness center, we’ve been helping those who suffer from fibromyalgia live healthy and full lives without an over reliance on pain medication or surgery.

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