A revealing survey of doctors won't make easy reading for fibromyalgia patients whose suffering is often dismissed.

Most people would probably assume that if they are sick then their doctor is there to help them as an impartial professional. Apparently this is not the case so you better make sure you develop an illness that your doctor feels is respectable.

The survey was carried out in Norway where doctors were asked to rank 38 different diseases according to the prestige with which they believe they are viewed with within the medical profession.

Patients suffering a heart attack, or from leukaemia, spleen rupture, brain tumour and testicular cancer can expect to be have their condition taken very seriously, which is as it should as these are all serious conditions.

Those suffering from fibromyalgia or nervous/psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and anorexia however may find themselves being treated less than satisfactorily. These are the diseases that the doctors ranked as the least prestigious.

The survey will confirm what many fibromyalgia patients have felt when dealing with their doctor. Many are dismissed as if they are malingerers or hypochondriacs when in actual fact fibromyalgia is a very serious chronic pain condition that can ruin people's lives.

The researchers from the University of Oslo and the University of Science and Technology, Oslo, said they believed the doctor's views could have implications for medical practice.

The results suggest that fibromyalgia patients may have to kick up a fuss to get the kind of care they should be given as a matter of course as doctors initially play down the severity of their condition.

There are also likely to be implications beyond the individual suffering of patients. With an estimated 2-4% of the population suffering from fibromyalgia, inadequate care as a result of doctor's personal opinions will inevitably lead to a strain on social services and the economy as millions are left disabled.

Source: Social Science & Medicine, doi: 10.1016/j.socimed. 2007.07.003



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