Lady Gaga’s announcement on Twitter that she suffers from fibromyalgia was met with an abundance of well wishes, but more moving were the empathetic responses from others coping with the condition. Not only did fans feel for the “Born This Way” star, they could relate — many gushed with gratitude that Lady Gaga stepped up to raise awareness for a disease that is all too often misunderstood, misdiagnosed or just missed altogether.
“Very often fibromyalgia patients go from doctor to doctor searching for an answer,” says Dr. Elizabeth Volkmann, assistant professor of medicine in the division of Rheumatology at UCLA. “Doctors will look for lupus or rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and when they don’t find either, they’ll stop there.”
Fibromyalgia doesn’t lend itself to a strict definition or diagnosis. Essentially, “it’s a disorder characterized by widespread muscular pain, often accompanied by other symptoms such as fatigue,” says Volkmann. There’s no way of testing for it: blood work won’t tell you if you have it, nor will an X-ray or any other kind of black and white medical exam, so diagnosing it is a matter of ruling out other diseases, as well as of “piecing together a constellation of symptoms,” says Volkmann.
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