For decades%2C doctors told patients their pain was the result of emotional hysteria
More than half of fibromyalgia cases are really a little-known small-fiber neuropathy
Most fibromyalgia patients have been treated with anti-depressants
Fibromyalgia affects 1% to 5% of Americans, mainly women, but until recently, scientists had no idea what might be causing its severe and mysterious pains. For decades, doctors told patients their agony was imaginary, the result of emotional hysteria, not a physical ailment.
But this year, researchers finally began to get a handle on the condition.
“What’s happened is in 2013 there’s been this absolute explosion of papers,” says neurologist Anne Louise Oaklander at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “The whole view on this has shifted.”
Oaklander published two studies this year showing that half or more of the cases of fibromyalgia are really a little-known condition affecting the nerves. People with this small-fiber neuropathy get faulty signals from tiny nerves all over the body, including internal organs, causing an odd constellation of symptoms from pain to sleep and digestive problems that overlap with symptoms of fibromyalgia.