Medical researchers have developed a new way to diagnose the painful disorder fibromyalgia, according to a recently published study. Using a pain index and a measure of key symptoms and severity, medical doctors may soon be able to diagnose the condition with more accuracy and begin treatment options sooner. See, “A New Way of Diagnosing Fibromyalgia.”

Diagnosing fibromyalgia has long been a problem within the medical community. Fibromyalgia is usually determined by administering “tender point” exams that document pain or tenderness on at least 11of 18 specified points during a three month period. But doctors who are not rheumatologists are uncomfortable with exam, which isn’t fail-safe, said Robert Katz, MD, a rheumatologist and professor of medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and author of the study. As a result, people with symptoms commonly associated with the fibromyalgia were often told by their doctors that the problem was “all in their heads.”

All that is not lost on disability insurers, who tend to deny claims from people suffering with fibromyalgia, particularly when policyholders cannot get a clear diagnosis of their condition.

The new diagnosing criteria, already approved by American College of Rheumatology, avoid the tender point exams. Instead, a 19-point pain index and severity scale is administered. A patient marks the number of body parts where she has experienced pain during the last week. Typical fibromyalgia symptoms such as unrefreshing sleep, fatigue, and cognition are rated on a scale of severity from 0 to 3. The physician completes the diagnosis based on the number of painful areas and number of symptoms and their severity.

Dr. Katz predicts that once the new diagnosis criteria are in use, the number of recognized cases of fibromyalgia could double or even triple.

All this is good news for people who believe they are suffering from the painful symptoms of fibromyalgia but have never been officially diagnosed with the disease. On the other hand, they may be in for a shock if and when they file disability claims. We predict that carriers won’t readily agree that this new way to diagnose fibromyalgia is superior to previous methods and will still make Firbo sufferers fight to get the benefits they deserve.

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