Life with fibro a painful fight
ON A good day, Vivien Konwerski feels like she has been run down with the flu.
On a bad day, she can't even lift her head off the pillow.
The Leichhardt mum of two is battling a little-known but rather common condition called fibromyalgia.
The life-altering illness - often shortened to "fibro" - causes the sufferer to experience widespread muscle pain and fatigue.
It can be so severe that even normal or soft touch can elicit significant pain.
Mrs Konswerski said the illness had no cure and that she - like many other sufferers - had to give up her job and change her lifestyle because of it.
"I was a funeral director for 20 years but I can't do that anymore," she said.
"The disease is so temperamental and can be very debilitating at times.
"You might be having a good day and in the next hour everything can change and you're dead to the world and in unbearable pain."
Her son Jon Garman, who also has the disease, said people were often misdiagnosed with other illnesses before doctors determined they had fibro.
The 22-year-old said the many symptoms of fibro were the same as, or similar to, other illnesses.
He said there were also no lab tests or imaging scans that definitively identified fibro.
"I was diagnosed through the process of elimination," he said. "I did a lot of tests before doctors narrowed it down."
Some patients are diagnosed through a tender point test, a physical exam that focuses on 18 points throughout the body.
But fellow fibro sufferer and father Dan Clark said a lot of people - doctors included - refused to believe the condition was real.
"On the outside I look fit and healthy but inside I am often riddled with pain," he said. "I just have to try to manage as best I can.
"A lot of people think you're making it up or that it's all in your head.
"My own father told me to 'harden up', it was a tough thing to hear."
According to The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, fibro affects 2 to 5% of the population in developed countries.
For more information search for Fibromyalgia Support Australia on Facebook.
Fibromyalgia: Fast Facts
- The cause or causes of fibromyalgia are not known. However, there are many theories, including abnormalities in brain chemicals, infections, trauma, genetics and hormonal changes.
- There is no known cure for fibromyalgia, but the symptoms can be treated. Medications such as antidepressants, anticonvulsants and sometimes pain relievers may help. Proper nutrition, exercise and sleeping habits also play important roles in treatment of fibromyalgia.
- The disease can affect females and males of all races and ages, including children. However, fibromyalgia is most common in women over the age of 30.