Kids Get It Too
Most people tend to think of fibromyalgia as a condition that hits adults only, but the fact is that FM can affect anyone of any age. Still, diagnosing youngsters with the condition is a different story. FM in children and in adolescents arrives with a gradual onset of symptoms. Even so, the symptoms are not unlike what an adult FM patient experiences.
Another reason pinning down a diagnosis can be iffy is due to the fact that children tend to be inconsistent when describing symptoms. Children may also come to believe their symptoms are just a normal state of being, or that what they experience is part and parcel of regular old growing pains. It may not occur to a child that he has a condition, let alone to report his discomfort or fatigue. He may be afraid that complaining is a kind of weakness, or that his symptoms are too weird to report. Because of the gradual onset of the symptoms, a child with FM may not be an exact fit to the usual diagnostic criteria for the condition until he has already been ill for a number of years.
Then again, just as so many adults with FM are told they are hypochondriacs, a kid too, may be told by his parents, or even by his physicians, that “it’s all in your head.” A child may be told he’s just stressed out over school, or even end up diagnosed as having a learning disability. He may be viewed with disgust as he pleads his inability to partake in certain activities. He may be deemed socially immature.
If you’re a parent and your child comes to complain of fatigue, muscle pain, or any of the other myriad possible symptoms of FM, your natural inclination would be to consider emotional problems, lack of sleep, a too full schedule, dietary deficiencies, hormonal issues connected to puberty and adolescence, depression, avoidance of school work or chores, lovesickness, sexual activity or abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, mononucleosis, hypochondria, and a general tendency to kvetch. The last thought to come to your mind would be to think your child might have fibromyalgia.
The key here is to believe your child and not discount his vague recounting of his symptoms, no matter how minor they may sound to you. Ask around and try to find a rheumatologist who has experience with children and with pediatric FM. Not all doctors believe that the disease is real and even those who do, may not be ready to believe a child can have the condition. You’ll need to do some homework before you pick up the phone to make an appointment to make sure your child’s symptoms are treated with sensitivity and discernment. He deserves no less.