Invisible Illness Tough to Treat

9 years 5 months 3 weeks ago April 01, 2007 Apr 1, 2007 Sunday, April 01 2007 Sunday, April 01, 2007 10:29:05 PM CDT in News

Elizabeth Box was an accountant by day, competitive country westerndancer by night. These were two of the many things she loved to do, buttoday she only has the memories.

"I'd end up getting very sick after coming off the dance floor, because we were in competitive, yeah, you can only be sick so many times and then we had to stop," said Elizabeth Box, patient.

Thirteen years ago Box was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, sometimes called the invisible illness because doctors can't see the disease. Sufferers like Box, though, can feel the disease because of symptoms ranging from constant pain, to sleeping disorders and something called "fibro fog" that causes memory problems.

"I say I have "quarter timers" because a quarter of the time i can't remember things. I think that has frustrated my children. You know Mom's mind used to be pretty sharp and could remember everything, and now it doesn't," said Box.

Many have symptoms so severe the disease forces them to quit their jobs and drastically cut back on their daily routines.

"Learning to self-manage this disease you have to be able to weigh how much pain you're going to be in against what you have to do or need to do or want to do," said Deanna Davenport, nurse.

Fibromyalgia effects about 2% of Americans and is a disease that is most commonly seen in women. There is no cure for this disease but doctors can prescribe medications to lesson the pain and exercise to ease muscle stiffness. But these methods don't work for everyone. One thing that helps people with Fibromyalgia is a support group like the one that meets at the Columbia Public Library.  For many, the support group is a way to openly talk about Fibromyalgia.

"Most people don't want to hear what you're going through but these people here will listen to you," said Jill Sheets, patient.

"We're superwomen anymore you know we're working, we're taking care of the kids, we're hosting the family dinners and trying to be Martha Stewart in our spare time. And Fibromyalgia really does not let you do that anymore. You have to really pick and choose about what's really important to you," said Davenport.

And until there's a cure, the support of friends and doctors helps women like Box and Sheets cope with Fibromyalgia. Tests can't detect Fibromyalgia, so doctors diagnose the disease by ruling out other diseases like Lupus and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

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