Fibromyalgia Patients Have Problems Finding Doctors

Karen Lee Richards Health Guide
  • As you may have guessed from this title, I’m adapting the lament made famous by Rodney Dangerfield, “I get no respect.”  This refrain could be echoed by many fibromyalgia patients.  I get far too many letters from people who can’t find a physician who will take their suffering seriously.  Too many patients are passed from doctor to doctor because no one wants to deal with the myriad of symptoms that accompany FM.  

    Why are there still medical professionals who don’t believe in fibromyalgia?  I could understand it twenty-five years ago when there was only minimal research, when the biological abnormalities had not been clearly identified, and when no official medical or governmental authority had yet accepted it.  But today there is no excuse.  Numerous studies have demonstrated very real biological abnormalities in FM patients.  And over the past twenty years, fibromyalgia has been validated by official sources in both the medical and governmental arenas.  
    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:
    • The American Medical Association recognized fibromyalgia as a real physical condition in 1987.
    • In 1990 the American College of Rheumatology developed the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia.
    • In 1995, the Veterans Administration recognized fibromyalgia as one of the illnesses that would qualify veterans who had served in Southwest Asia for disability benefits.
    • In 1999 the Social Security Administration issued a ruling stating that fibromyalgia is a “medically determinable impairment,” which gave it legitimacy in the determination of disability benefits.  
    • In 2007 the Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug to be used in the treatment of fibromyalgia.
    With all of this research and official validation, why are there still so many doctors out there who either don’t believe in FM or are unwilling to treat FM patients?  I suspect there may be several reasons.  
    • Those in the fields of general, family or internal medicine have to deal with so many different diseases that it’s impossible to keep up-to-date on all of them.  No human being could possibly keep up with the hundreds of different medical journals and thousands of research projects being done every year.  
    • The ever-increasing demands and limitations insurance companies place on doctors today make it difficult for many to even keep their practices open.  Fibromyalgia patients take a lot of time and usually require more office visits, tests and medications than the average patient.  Physicians may be penalized by insurance companies for spending too much time with any one patient or ordering too many tests, medications, etc.  
    • Let’s face it, fibromyalgia is not an easy illness to treat.  There’s no one-size-fits-all treatment protocol.  Every patient is unique and treatment is usually a long, slow process of trial and error.  It can be incredibly discouraging for both the doctor and the patient.  I believe most doctors truly want to help their patients.  So when weeks, months and years go by without significant improvement, it has to be frustrating.  I can’t help but wonder whether some doctors decide to focus their time and effort on patients they know they can help.
    While these may all be valid reasons many medical professionals don’t know much about or have chosen not to treat fibromyalgia, it doesn’t help the millions of patients who are suffering with unrelenting pain and disabling fatigue.  Although it’s discouraging to know there are still so many doctors out there who don’t want to deal with fibromyalgia patients, it’s not hopeless.  Over the past ten years I have seen a significant increase in the number of doctors who acknowledge the validity of fibromyalgia and either try to work with their patients to treat it or refer their patients to a rheumatologist who treats FM.  Sometimes the rate of progress seems slow to those of us who are suffering but nevertheless, we are making sure and steady progress.  

  • I’m thinking that the FDA’s approval of a drug for fibromyalgia may actually do more toward educating FM-resistant physicians than anything else to date.  Why?  Because the pharmaceutical companies put big money behind promoting their newest products.  Drug reps will be in every medical office, telling the doctors about this new drug and teaching them how it can be used to treat fibromyalgia.  Let’s hope the doctors are listening.  
    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

Published On: July 01, 2007