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Raising awareness of fibromyalgia

Advocates and people with fibromyalgia are raising awareness of the potentially disabling disease this month. Monday, May 12, is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, and people will have events and raise awareness of the illness throughout the month. People with fibromyalgia have a serious medical condition that is often misunderstood.

According to the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association, fibromyalgia symptoms include widespread muscle, tendon and joint pain. The pain can also be present in soft tissues. It must persist for at least three months for a diagnosis. The cause is not completely understood, but the condition appears to involve “disordered central afferent processing,” which can involve abnormal involvement in some regions of the brain that process external stimuli.

Other symptoms of the disease can include fatigue, sleep disturbances, problems with cognitive functioning and anxiety and depression. Because there is no cure, treatments focus on improving function and reducing symptoms. Many people are able to successfully live and work with fibromyalgia. Others may be unable to work, but obtaining disability benefits for fibromyalgia can be challenging.

To be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, a worker must have an impairment that is established through medical evidence. Your statements about your symptoms are not enough to obtain benefits. This was one of the factors that made fibromyalgia challenging to prove for Social Security Disability benefits. In July 2012, however, Social Security released a policy outlining the evidence it needs to approve benefits for fibromyalgia.  The new policy covers the criteria and the documentation needed for benefits.

Source: Social Security Administration, "SSR 12-2p: Titles II and XVI: Evaluation of Fibromyalgia," July 25, 2012; National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association, "Fact Sheet"

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