They cause no visible changes, have no obvious signs, and often cannot be identified on imaging or lab tests. These are some of the characteristics of 10 “invisible” diseases that affect nearly a million people in the state.
They are diseases such as fibromyalgia, a syndrome that causes pain throughout the body; multiple sclerosis; Chronic migraine and endometriosis (a problem that affects women of childbearing age).
Maria José found in crafts a new profession and a cure for the pain she felt all over her body.
Although these diseases are invisible, they often cause problems in work and relationships, as well as emotional problems.
Defined as chronic, generalized muscle pain, without signs of inflammation, undetected in tests, fibromyalgia has tormented for years the life of 59-year-old artist Maria José Pará Marquez.
Chronic pain specialist, anesthesiologist Andre Felix, of the Reliefum Clinic, explained that fibromyalgia is an invisible disease because there is no test accepted by the scientific community to identify it.
Diagnosis is made by clinical examination, in which patients answer questionnaires. He points out that today we have thermal imaging (imaging examination), but it is still inconclusive.”
Research shows that about 2.5% to 3% of the population suffers from fibromyalgia.
Another invisible but very frequent pain is chronic migraine. 15% of the population, including children, suffer from this disease.
“It’s a bit of a cliched disease, but it’s actually a complex and debilitating illness. When a patient is in crisis he can’t do anything. He doesn’t sleep, doesn’t watch TV, doesn’t play football and doesn’t have a good relationship with his family,” says neurologist Vanessa Loyola Marin, of Rede Meridional, “But it doesn’t show up in exams and often loses credibility.”
In the case of multiple sclerosis, symptoms are widespread and therefore difficult to identify. Neurologist Daniel Escobar, of Unimed Vitória, cited the diagnosis as being made from the sum of the signs over time, according to a patient report. “For this reason, it is important to discuss any type of symptoms with a doctor as soon as possible.”
Learn more about each disease
1 – Fibromyalgia
It is a disease characterized by generalized muscle pain that persists for more than three months, i.e. chronic. Despite this, there is no evidence of inflammation at the sites of pain and it is not detected on imaging or laboratory tests.
The reason is not fully understood, but the main hypothesis is that these patients present an altered perception of pain sensation.
Studies show that fibromyalgia affects about 3% of the population and generally affects women more than men. They appear between 30 and 50 years of age although there are patients outside this age group.
2 multiple sclerosis
It is a neurological, chronic and autoimmune disease, that is, the body’s defense cells attack the central nervous system itself, causing brain damage.
These injuries can cause diffuse and even transient symptoms, such as extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, a change in the balance of motor coordination, and joint pain, among others.
The diagnosis is essentially clinical. In many cases, laboratory tests are not sufficient to immediately determine whether a person has the disease, as the symptoms are similar to those of other diseases.
3 Chronic fatigue
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition whose main symptom is the presence of extreme fatigue, which can worsen with physical or mental activity, but does not improve with rest.
Fatigue can be a common symptom of many diseases, such as inflammatory, endocrine, respiratory, and even psychological disorders. Therefore, the diagnosis is clinical, that is, it is observed by a doctor, and excluded, based on the results of the clinical history and physical examination.
The diagnosis is most common in women between the ages of 40 and 50. Some patients may recover completely.
4 atypical depression
It is a specific type of depression and, despite its name, is one of the most common types of depression in the population. It is considered an invisible disease because the signs that appear on it are not typical of depression, and therefore, sometimes, the patient does not even suspect the pathology.
This type of depression shows, in most cases, increased appetite, weight gain, and excessive sleepiness, among other signs.
A severe reaction and greater sensitivity to criticism or rejection can also occur, resulting in significant impairment in social relationships and at work.
It is a chronic inflammatory disease of autoimmune origin. Symptoms can appear in different organs, making diagnosis difficult.
Lupus can occur in any type of person. However, the incidence is higher in women, especially between 20 and 45 years old.
It is estimated that there are about 65,000 cases in Brazil, with an incidence of 0.03% of the population. In the state, that equates to nearly 1,200 people with the disease.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological disorder that appears in childhood. It often accompanies a person for life.
It is characterized by symptoms of inattention, restlessness and impulsivity. In adulthood, the signs may manifest themselves in a subtle way, which does not create an alert to the disease. It is estimated that about 4% of the population suffers from ADHD, which equates to 160,000 people in the state.
Endometriosis is an inflammatory disease caused by cells in the endometrium, the tissue that lines the uterus, that instead of being expelled during menstruation, move in the opposite direction and fall into the ovaries or abdominal cavity.
It causes a lot of pain during menstruation as well as during intercourse. It is a disease that is difficult to diagnose through examinations, because it rarely causes significant changes.
It can affect all the bones in the body, making them weak and likely to break with minimal effort.
Most of the time, there are no symptoms or signs of the problem, and it is determined by tests only. Pain can be caused by a fracture, due to weak bones.
It affects about 25% of women and 10% of men over 50 who are in the risk group.
9- Chronic migraines
Pain that occurs only on one side of the head, is moderate to severe, is usually throbbing, and can last for hours and even days.
Although it is often accompanied by other symptoms, it cannot be recognized by imaging tests. The diagnosis is made by the doctor in clinical examinations.
Surveys show that 15% of the population suffers from this disease, and it is included in the list of the most disabled people.
10 Sjögren’s Syndrome
It is an autoimmune disease characterized primarily by the appearance of dry eyes and mouth, and is associated with the presence of autoantibodies or markers of inflammation.
Since the symptoms are similar to those of other diseases, the diagnosis is made by excluding other diseases.
A study conducted in the state showed an incidence of 0.17% of the disease in the population, which is about 7,000 patients.
Source: Consulting Physicians, Brazilian Society of Rheumatology and AT Research.
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