People suffering from invisible illnesses often struggle to get a diagnosis, let alone a treatment plan. Invisible illnesses don’t have external or empirical symptoms that doctors can measure to determine a diagnosis. Many patients have to wait years before receiving their diagnosis. These five invisible illnesses are considered rare but they may be simply underdiagnosed.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome tends to be misunderstood. Those who don’t understand this illness believe that it’s merely an experience of being tired. New parents may joke about having developed chronic fatigue syndrome since their baby’s arrival.
In reality, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a real, life-affecting disorder that affects up to 2.5 million Americans. It is estimated that approximately 90% of those suffering from this disorder haven’t been diagnosed. It’s difficult to diagnose a disorder for which there is no guaranteed, one-size-fits-all test. CFS can only be diagnosed when a physician goes over a patients’ symptoms and their complete medical history.
There is no cure for CFS, but it can be managed. Treatments usually involve examining the patient’s lifestyle to develop an appropriate balance between activity and rest. Sleep aids may be prescribed for patients who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Pain management may also be helpful for patients who experience headaches or joint and muscle pain as a result of their condition.
Chronic dry mouth may not seem like a big deal, but it can be a serious issue. Saliva is necessary to fight bacteria and create a buffer between your mouth and decay-causing acid. According to Winter Family Dental, a dentist in Arvada, when your mouth is chronically dry, you receive less saliva and increase your risk of serious gum disease and tooth decay. Try increasing the amount of water you drink each day, and if the problem persists, consult with your dentists to ensure there are no serious underlying issues. Your dentist will also recommend products and tips to help increase saliva in the mouth.
MS is a disease of the nervous system that predominantly affects the brain and spinal cord. This disease damages the material that surrounds your nerve cells. It causes the signals your brain is sending to your body to be slowed down or blocked.
The resulting symptoms can be difficult for others to see and this is why MS is considered an invisible illness. Patients with MS can experience tingling sensations, muscle weakness, memory and thinking problems, and visual disturbances.
There is no exact test or cure for this disease. Testing involves a complete examination of the patients’ symptoms and medical history. Other tests such as MRIs and neurological exams can also be useful for physicians to diagnose this illness. Certain medications and lifestyle alterations can reduce the patient’s symptoms and slow the progression of their disease. No one treatment works for every patient with MS so physicians will monitor their patients closely and make adjustments to their treatment plan as needed.
Complex regional pain syndrome is a chronic pain disorder that affects a person after they’ve suffered an injury, usually to an arm or leg. The previous injury causes the C-fiber nerve fibers to misfire. These nerve fibers are responsible for sending pain messages to the brain and in patients with CRPS the damaged nerve sends incorrect signals. This causes severe pain and sometimes inflammation to the site of the previous injury. Other symptoms can include a change of skin color or temperature, stiffness in the affected joint, and impaired muscle strength or movement.
The outcome for patients with CRPS can vary widely. Some patients recover in just a few months or years as the damaged nerve eventually repairs itself. Other cases can see a patient becoming disabled over time as the damaged nerve doesn’t repair and continues sending pain signals to the brain.
There are several different treatments available for patients with CRPS. Certain medications are helpful and most physicians recommend continued physical therapy and rehabilitation. Some health practitioners have begun developing alternate treatments for CRPS.
Patients diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries have suffered an incident that caused trauma to the brain and prevented it from proper functioning. TBIs can range from moderate to severe depending on what the initial injury was.
TBIs can be difficult to diagnose because many of the symptoms correlate with other invisible illnesses and some symptoms may not appear until weeks or months after the initial injury. Some of the most common symptoms include headache, problems with speech, dizziness, sensory problems, memory impairments, and sudden mood changes. Patients are often diagnosed after a review of their medical history and imaging tests such as a CAT scan or MRI.
Treating a TBI depends on several factors. Your physician will look at your medical history, lifestyle, and how the TBI occurred. Once they’ve determined the severity of the TBI they can determine an appropriate treatment plan. This usually consists of rehabilitation and can potentially require the use of medications or surgeries in more severe cases.
The cause of fibromyalgia is still unknown, but it’s a disorder that affects a person’s entire body. Patients experience widespread pain and it’s believed that fibromyalgia patients experience pain more intensely than others.
Patients with fibromyalgia can experience symptoms other than pain. The most common symptoms are fatigue, headaches, memory and concentration problems, and depression and anxiety. Physicians need to assess a patient’s medical history and symptoms to determine whether or not they may have fibromyalgia. Physicians will often order bloodwork or X-rays to confirm the diagnosis.
Since the cause of fibromyalgia is still uncertain patients will be treated based on their symptoms. Medications for pain management are often prescribed and the patient will usually receive instructions to seek out physical and mental health therapy as well. Keeping their symptoms under control requires focusing on each symptom rather than treating the disease as a whole.