Hepatitis C Survivor  


Hepatitis C and Fibromyalgia

Written By:  Teri Gottlieb


It has been discovered that there is a link between Hepatitis C and Fibromyalgia.  What exactly that link is has not been completely determined at this time.  If, however, you are at all predisposed to Fibromyalgia, Hepatitis C and/or its treatment can definitely bring it out.  Fibromyalgia is brought on by a major stress in one’s life.  I think we all can agree that a diagnosis of and/or treatment for Hepatitis C can be considered a major stress. 


For many people who go through treatment for HCV, at some point during the treatment time Fibromyalgia sets in.  It’s hard to tell the difference between the Fibromyalgia symptoms and the side-effects of traditional Hepatitis C treatment.  By traditional, I am speaking of treatment that includes Peg-Interferon and Ribavirin.  The first clues that Fibromyalgia might be an issue start when treatment is over but the side-effects you were experiencing persist.  For a few months, you believe it is just part of the recovery process, and sometimes it is.  When the months drag on past the 90 day mark, you know there is another problem.  That problem can very well be Fibromyalgia.


Described by Hippocrates in ancient Greece, Fibromyalgia is one of the world’s oldest medical mysteries.  The disease, a complex illness marked by chronic muscle, tendon and ligament pain, fatigue and multiple tender points on the body, affects about two percent of Americans, most of them women.


Getting a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia can be rather tricky, as you will run into some doctors who don’t believe in it and others who are more than willing to throw anyone in the Fibromyalgia category when they can’t figure out what the problem really is.  Many people have been misdiagnosed with Fibromyalgia simply because their doctor found it to be an easy answer.  The signs and symptoms of this disease are similar to various other disorders so you may wind up seeing several different doctors before you are actually told for certain that you have Fibromyalgia.  Usually, a family practices physician will send you to a Rheumatologist (an arthritis specialist) to confirm the diagnosis.


The criteria for a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia are as follows: 

  • Widespread pain lasting at least three months    

  • No underlying condition that might be causing the pain    

  •  At least 11 tender trigger points out of a possible 18      

  • Presence of back pain



When you have Fibromyalgia, sometimes just getting through the day means making difficult choices.  You might feel fine at the moment but within minutes it could feel like a train has hit you. It’s almost like being on a roller coaster, full of ups and downs.  You can have a great day and handle everything that you need to and the next day will leave you so exhausted that you are convinced you can’t even get out of bed to feed the family.  As bad as this feels, there are steps you can take to avoid some of the Fibromyalgia pain.


Stress – “If a woman with Fibromyalgia spends too much time stressing about her condition, she uses up precious energy.” Says Scott Glaser, M.D., a Chicago-area Interventional Pain Medicine Specialist and board member to the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians.


There is a difference between controlling your Fibromyalgia symptoms and letting your Fibromyalgia symptoms control you.  Learning to treat yourself well can make all the difference in the world.  Little tings in life can impact your Fibromyalgia.  What your family and friends might do to stay healthy may not be appropriate for you. You have to find the balance in your life that is right for you.  This is different for everyone.


Here are some things that will help you get rid of guilt, pace yourself on difficult days and sidestep stress when Fibromyalgia symptoms flare up:


Listen to your body.  There is nothing wrong with taking a “time out” if you need one.  When the fatigue of Fibromyalgia hits, you need to rest.  Fighting thru the fatigue will only cause you more fatigue and more pain.  Your body is telling you to take it easy.  You need to listen.


You can’t always put your family first.  It is natural to put the needs of your children and your family before your own. This is part of being a mom BUT moms with Fibromyalgia shouldn’t let parenting responsibilities prevent them from making healthy choices.  Basically, this means not to skip a doctor’s visit to attend your child’s soccer game.  If the Thursday afternoon car pool is too much for you to handle that day, ask someone to cover for you.  Taking care of yourself will make it much easier to take care of your family.


Make good use of the energy you do have.  You are going to have times when you feel good, even great.  YES I said great.  Don’t avoid activities during those times out of fear.  It is easy to fall into the “I can’t do that” mindset even without trying to, but don’t use your Fibromyalgia as an excuse to avoid activities that you actually can do.  In other words, don’t underestimate your capabilities when you are feeling good.  That kind of attitude makes you a victim.  You are not a victim.  If you are feeling well, do what you can for as long as you can.  When pain or fatigue sets in, stop.


When you are having a good day, don’t overdo it.  On those amazing days when you are pain free and fatigue free, don’t try to make up for lost time!  This is an easy trap to fall into.  You feel great and you’re going to do everything you haven’t been able to do in a few days.  Trying to do too much at once because you are feeling great can trigger one huge Fibro flare.  Even if you are feeling good and have all sorts of energy, your muscles are still very susceptible to soreness.  So instead of trying to do everything, do one thing and then rest.  If you’re feeling good after a decent rest, you can do some more.  You will still feel like you’ve accomplished something but you won’t have that pain hangover.


Learn to say NO.  We have all had this problem before.  Saying no is not something we want to do but there are going to be times when hosting a party, a family dinner or just baking cupcakes for the school bake sale is not something you can handle.  It is okay to say no.  Only say yes to things you are really able to do.  If you have made plans to do something but when the time comes you know you can’t handle it, you need to be able to say no.  Learning to say NO will help you better handle your Fibromyalgia symptoms.  Please don’t feel guilty about saying no.  You are the one that suffers the consequences.  It’s your health and you are the one that feels the pain.


Learn when “enough” is.  There is a fine balance between doing enough to feel good but not so much that the repercussions knock you out the next day.  If you feel like someone beat you with a crowbar while you were sleeping, you overdid it.


Keep your mind busy.  You may not have the energy to take a walk or do household tasks but using your mind does not expend physical energy.  Stay mentally active. Online games actually help with the brain fog that sometimes comes with Fibromyalgia.  Try working a crossword puzzle or a game of Solitaire. Things like this can take your mind off of your pain, even if it’s only for a little while.  You will relieve stress and tend to worry a little less while you’re involved in these activities.  If you’re not up to the task of a crossword puzzle, games with repetition are a great starting point.  Facebook games like Farmville and Candy Crush are great places to start.


Don’t stress out.  Stress only makes the pain worse.  Worrying about what the next Fibro flare will bring only increases your stress levels.  Try focusing on something other than the pain.  It may help.


Ask for help.  With any disease process, having a support system in place is key.  Let your family and friends know what it going on with you.  Don’t try to hide this.  Let them know what good days and bad days are like for you so they can better understand.  There are so many misconceptions with this disease because you don’t look sick.  Fibromyalgia is one of those invisible illnesses.  You can’t see it but if you educate those around you about what you are going through they will be prepared to help when you need it. 


Learn to accept help.  Family and friends that volunteer to help you are doing it because they want to do it, not because they feel some sort of guilt or pressure to do so.  This is your support system.  On bad days, you need to rely on this.  Get that support system in place.  Surround yourself with people who understand and are willing to help you.  Then don’t be afraid to ask for their help.


Find the right doctor.  Sometimes the hardest part of dealing with Fibromyalgia is getting a doctor that not only believes you but is also willing to help.  One that will help you with the pain.  There are doctors that believe in this diagnosis.  There are also doctors who specialize in Fibromyalgia.  Find one.  Ask questions.  Find out what medications he thinks will help you.  There are many medications out there that are being used for Fibromyalgia.  There are the ones that are geared just for it and the ones that are designed for something else but are very useful in treating the symptoms.  There are also alternative treatments available like massage and acupuncture.  They may work for you.  Ask your doctor if there are supplements that he feels will be helpful for to you. Keep and open mind.  


Whatever you do, don’t shut down.  When you have Fibromyalgia and you are not feeling well, it is very easy to seclude yourself from everyone else, to hide in your bedroom with the covers over your head.  Utilize your bedroom when your Fibro is bad, when you’re okay, get out of that room!

Remember, this condition may be a part of your life but it is not your life.  Don’t let your Fibromyalgia take over.  Don’t become a victim.  FIGHT BACK.  Talking to friends and family that understand at a time like this is important.  Let them help you.  Remember that having Fibromyalgia just means you make changes to your everyday life.  You can live with this disease.  Don’t let it consume you.  

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia.  Does Any of This Sound Familiar?

Written By:  Teri Gottlieb

Currently, Fibromyalgia is not well understood in the medical community.  Some doctors believe in this diagnosis and are willing to treat patients who have it, while others have refused to acknowledge its presence. Dealing with a doctor who refuses to treat a patient who has Fibromyalgia can be frustrating.  To give you an example, my GP told me that he did not believe in the Fibromyalgia diagnosis but if he did, I had classic symptoms.  He then refused to treat me for it even though I had "classic" symptoms.  If you run into a situation like this one, where your doctor refuses to acknowledge your issues, you can always do what I did.  Find another doctor who believes you.  

It is known, that certain people are more prone to developing Fibromyalgia than others.  Fibromyalgia is brought on by a major stress in ones life. This can be anything from a serious illness to a divorce or a death in the family.   Because there are so many different symptoms of Fibromyalgia, diagnosis is sometimes difficult.  When it comes to Fibromyalgia, you need to be your own advocate.  If you are convinced that this is what your problem is, you will need to find a doctor who understands this disease process. 

Fibromyalgia means widespread pain in the muscles. This condition has so many different side effects that it is often misdiagnosed.  Since there are currently no lab tests to diagnose Fibromyalgia, often times a person is labeled a hypochondriac.  This can be as frustrating as the condition itself. 

Fibromyalgia symptoms may intensify depending on the time of day.  Symptoms may also get worse due to fatigue, inactivity, changes in weather, cold or drafty locations, tension, overexertion, hormonal fluctuations, stress or depression.  Symptoms are fickle in that they can go on indefinitely or disappear for months and then reappear.

Not all these symptoms apply to everyone, but there is most always a combination of several.  Symptoms of Fibromyalgia include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Widespread pain.

  • Chronic muscle pain, muscle spasms or tightness of the muscles.

  • Morning stiffness.

  • Moderate to severe fatigue and decreased energy levels.  

  • Insomnia or waking up not feeling rested.

  • Disturbance of sleep cycles.

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome - abdominal pain, bloating, nausea and constipation alternating with diarrhea.

  • Difficulty remembering, concentrating, multi-tasking and performing simple mental tasks.  This is known as Fibro Fog.

  • Tension or migraine headaches.

  • Sensitivity to odors, noise, bright lights, medications, certain foods and cold.  ​

  • Reduced ability for exercise with severe muscle pain after exercise.  

  • ​Anxiety.

  • ​Depression.

  • Numbness or tingling in the face, arms, hands, legs or feet.

  • Sensation of swelling in hands and feet when no swelling is occurring.

  • Nausea.

  • Weight gain.

  • Balance problems.

  • Dizziness.

  • Itchy and burning skin sensations.  

  • Sunburn feeling on skin.

  • Pain all over.