Although the overwhelming majority of people who are diagnosed with fibromyalgia are women, it's definitely possible for a man to have FMS, too. In fact, considering the major difficulty that some women report that they've had to go through in getting a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, a man with the same medical problem may have an even harder time receiving an accurate diagnosis of his condition.
One study, reported in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology in 2006, looked at the incidence of fibromyalgia based on actual diagnoses made in medical claims from 1997 to 2002. The results were surprising: The researchers found that although women were more likely to have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia than men, it was by a much lower ratio (by 1.64 times) than reported in many other studies. They also found that patients with FMS (male and female) were from two to seven times more likely than patients without fibromyalgia to also have other conditions, such as headaches, depression, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.
Some men with fibromyalgia are military veterans, particularly from the Gulf Wars. (For more information on this topic, read Chapter 3.) Whether they're veterans or nonveterans, however, the symptoms that men experience are generally the same as the symptoms felt by women, although some men with fibromyalgia report that their fatigue is far more troublesome than the pain.
The trouble with "women's troubles"
Laurie has had fibromyalgia symptoms her entire life. But they've always been perceived as symptoms that were related to her gender. She says that when she first started getting her period, the symptoms were always attributed to menstruation — because she was going to get her period or because she had her period or even because her period had just finished. Somehow, the pain in her body was always related to the bleeding, according to the doctors.
When she got older, the problem became, basically, "getting older." Laurie suspects that at some point in the future, when she goes through menopause, doctors will say that menopause is causing all her body aches. Laurie says that it's almost like being female is a disease. (If you think that your doctor regards womanhood as a disease like Laurie's doctors did, be sure to read Chapter 7 on dealing with your doctor or finding a new physician.)
Tom is 42 years old and says that he had a difficult time obtaining a diagnosis. It wasn't until Tom asked his doctor if his problem could be the same thing as his sister had (she'd been diagnosed with FMS) that it occurred to the physician to consider fibromyalgia. After the doctor started thinking about FMS as a possibility for Tom's tender points, fatigue, and other symptoms, he said that it seemed very obvious that fibromyalgia was the correct diagnosis for Tom's condition. The possibility just hadn't occurred to him before, because Tom wasn't a woman.
Men who think that they may have fibromyalgia should ask their doctors about it, because some men do suffer from FMS. Fibromyalgia isn't an unmanly disease — although most men (like most women) would prefer not to have it.
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