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SELF Interviews Dr. Williams about Lady Gaga's Fibromyalgia Diagnosis


There’s a lot experts still don’t know about fibromyalgia.

For starters, no one knows why the condition affects more women than men, Dr. Rosick says, adding that it may simply be hormonal. Experts aren’t even sure what causes fibromyalgia in the first place, but Vernon Williams, M.D., a sports neurologist and director of the Kerlan-Jobe Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles, tells SELF that there are some theories.

Some experts think that the condition may be endocrine- or hormonally-based, and it may also be due to an immune abnormality. “In some cases, people have had a history of some kind of psychological or physical trauma, but we don’t know how that might affect the immune system or nervous system,” Dr. Williams says. New research has also suggested that the condition may be a neuropathic pain disorder that involves some abnormality in how the brain and spinal cord processes pain signals in people with fibromyalgia, he says. But again, there is no definitive, known cause of the disease.

It’s possible to treat fibromyalgia, but treatment isn’t one-size-fits-all.

Treatment typically involves a combination of things, including oral medication (like antidepressants, pain relievers, or anti-seizure drugs), cognitive behavioral therapy, physical therapy, and exercise, Dr. Williams says. Exercise is tricky given that fibromyalgia sufferers regularly grapple with pain and fatigue, but Dr. Rosick says it can make a big difference. An anti-inflammatory diet may also be helpful, he says.

There is no cure for fibromyalgia, but it is possible to get the pain under control in most cases, Dr. Rosick says. “I’ve seen many people get a lot better where they function better, although some days it’s better or worse,” he says. “I’ve never seen the pain go away completely but I’ve seen it get significantly better.”

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