Many serious medical conditions may be made worse if there is a failure to diagnose the illness properly and the right treatment is missed as a result. This is true for Massachusetts residents who are suffering from non-fatal, chronic conditions, as well as those who may die from a delay in diagnosis. Some medical conditions have symptoms that are similar to the symptoms of other conditions. This is especially true for fibromyalgia – a common yet often misunderstood muscle, nerve and joint disorder.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases defines fibromyalgia as a chronic disorder that includes widespread tenderness, pain and other symptoms. Most patients are diagnosed with the condition in middle age, although people can have fibromyalgia at any age. It is believed that about 5 million people throughout the country over age 18 currently have the disorder. It is unknown exactly what causes fibromyalgia. There are no physical symptoms associated with the muscle and joint pain, such as inflamed or degenerating tissue.

The mysterious nature of this condition has resulted in many patients experiencing multiple false or delayed diagnoses, reports WebMD. This is partially because numerous conditions share the same symptoms as fibromyalgia. They may include such general symptoms as widespread or localized pain, headaches or migraines, sleep problems, difficulty concentrating and numbness of extremities. Fibromyalgia sufferers may also have other conditions that may complicate a correct diagnosis, such as irritable bowel syndrome. A doctor may suspect a patient has Lyme disease, lupus, arthritis or any number of other conditions instead. This may be further complicated by the fact that many doctors do not know much about the disorder or how to treat it.

There are treatments for fibromyalgia that may help with a patient’s pain and other symptoms. However, delayed treatment due to a wrong diagnosis may result in a patient suffering for much longer than necessary.