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Gaga Puts Her Face on a Puzzling Disease

09/22/2017 |  Comments | Celebrities, Illness, Pain

You could almost hear the enthusiastic (yet empathetic) cheer from fibromyalgia sufferers recently when they got the news: Lady Gaga shares their long-misunderstood disease. Although fibromyalgia is nothing to cheer about, Lady Gaga’s admittance to the club will surely help dissipate some of the speculation that has surrounded the diagnosis. 

Premier Health Now asked rheumatologist Timothy Drehmer, MD, Upper Valley Rheumatology, about the mystery that has surrounded fibromyalgia. “When I first started practicing medicine 30 years ago, there were medical professionals who didn’t believe it was real,” he says. But today an estimated 5 million or more Americans, mostly women, have been diagnosed with the disease whose primary symptom is pain. 

Other chronic pain disorders like arthritis can be diagnosed with blood tests or X-rays, Dr. Drehmer explains. But frustratingly, there is no test to confirm fibromyalgia. Common symptoms include:

  • Widespread pain with specific areas of tenderness
  • Sleeplessness
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Sensitivity to temperatures

The most telling signs of fibromyalgia are the tremendous pain and tenderness that are felt when mild pressure is applied to 18 precise areas of the body. 

“I have patients who come to me who maybe have never heard of fibromyalgia or if they did, they know nothing about it,” Dr. Drehmer says. “When you get down to it and examine these pressure points, they become very precise locations of the pain. It’s not as though they could have made that up.”

Fibromyalgia’s cause is unknown, adding to the disease’s puzzle, although it could be brought on by events that are emotionally or physically traumatic. 

Since breaking her news via Twitter, Lady Gaga has made it clear how fibromyalgia is impacting her ability to perform. She has cancelled the European leg of her new tour, but her U.S. performances remain on the schedule. A Netflix documentary, which debuted this week, touches upon her struggles with fibromyalgia.  

Source: Timothy Drehmer MD, Upper Valley Rheumatology; National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases; NBC News; NPR
Content Updated: 1/3/2019 3:59:37 PM

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