You and I have ever got physical symptoms that mostly brought uncomfortable feelings in our bodies at different times in life. These could get better on their own without any treatment or sometimes persist pushing you to make a visit to the hospital to find a relief plan.
Medically unexplained symptoms can be defined as physical symptoms with no identified organic causes lasting for at least 3 months leading to a loss of body function. They may also present as recognizable syndromes such as Fibromyalgia, Irritable bowel syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome. The most common presentations include; pain, fatigue and dizziness.
Irritable bowel syndrome is characterized by chronic pain, altered bowel movements and bloating. Chronic fatigue syndrome is characterized by new onset and persistent body exhaustion that isn’t relieved by rest and can result into a gradual decline in a person’s social and occupational function. It is often associated with impairment of memory, restlessness, headaches, joint aches and tender lymph nodes.
At some point, you attempt to establish a diagnosis or cause together with your doctor. After providing samples as requested by your doctor to run clinical tests, he tells you “everything appears normal and can’t find anything wrong in your body system” This can evoke your emotions and make you puzzled wondering what could be happening inside your body that even a physician has failed to establish! Physicians sometimes relate psychological factors to account for these symptoms however, even the current theory of somatization cannot provide a clear understanding of these medically unexplained symptoms. Psychological explanations are often not communicated effectively, do not address patient concerns, and may lead patients to reject treatment or referral because of potential stigma.
Although the causative factors of these symptoms remain unclear, there are maintaining factors that keep these symptoms going including; social, behavioral, cognitive and Physiological factors mostly leading to sleep disruption and autonomic dysregulation.
Treatment focuses on addressing modifiable maintaining factors, particularly cognitive and behavioral factors. Also the most effective and current treatment for some medically unexplained symptoms is a combination of therapeutic approaches tailored to the individual patient. This may seek to;
- Advise on stress management
- Improving sleep hygiene. Certainly on consistent bedtime and wakeup time and reducing daytime naps.
- Advise on general health, diet and exercise.
- Proper management of the associated depression or anxiety, considering medication if appropriate.