Peripheral neuropathy is one condition that, for many, is considered an invisible illness. The term “invisible illness” refers to any medical condition that is not outwardly visible to others, even healthcare professionals.
Invisible illnesses encompass many conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and peripheral neuropathy. People with an invisible illness often look perfectly healthy on the outside, so it can be difficult for others to comprehend the daily challenges and symptoms they experience.
People with peripheral neuropathy often experience pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the hands and feet. These symptoms can make everyday activities like walking or cooking difficult but aren’t often evident when simply looking at a person. This article will look at what invisible illnesses are, some examples, and how to support someone struggling with an invisible illness.
What is an invisible illness?
An invisible illness is any medical condition that isn’t outwardly visible to others, even healthcare professionals, making it challenging for both patients and doctors to identify the root cause of the problem. In some cases, invisible illnesses are only diagnosed after ruling out other potential causes.
People with an invisible illness often look perfectly healthy on the outside, so it can be difficult for others to grasp the daily challenges and symptoms they go through. This can make it difficult for people with an invisible illness to get the understanding and support they need from family, friends and even doctors.
What are some examples of invisible illnesses?
Some examples of invisible illnesses include: chronic pain disorders; mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders; autoimmune diseases; diabetes; high blood pressure; and heart disease.
Other examples include:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition that causes extreme tiredness that doesn’t improve with rest. CFS can also cause other symptoms like headaches, joint pain and memory problems.
- Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes pain and stiffness in the muscles, joints and tendons. Fibromyalgia can also cause fatigue, sleep problems and anxiety.
- Irritable bowel syndrome. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that affects the digestive system. IBS can cause abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.
- Migraines. Migraines are severe headaches that can cause nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines may also be accompanied by other symptoms like mood changes or difficulty concentrating.
- Depression. Depression is a mental health condition that causes feelings of sadness, hopelessness and fatigue. Depression can also cause physical symptoms like headaches and stomach problems.
- Chronic pain, such as pain that comes with peripheral neuropathy, is an invisible condition that can be debilitating. Peripheral neuropathy is an invisible illness because the damage to the nerves isn’t always outwardly visible. The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, however, can be extremely painful and make it difficult for those suffering to live a normal life.
What are spoonies?
The spoon theory is a way of explaining what it’s like to live with an invisible illness. The theory was created by Christine Miserandino to help her friend understand what it’s like to live with lupus, an invisible illness.
The spoon theory goes like this: Everyone is given a certain number of spoons at the beginning of the day. These spoons represent your energy for the day. Every activity you do during the day uses up a spoon.
For someone with an invisible illness — in this theory known as a “spoonie” — even simple tasks can use up all their spoons for the day. This can leave them feeling exhausted and unable to do anything else.
People with visible illnesses can usually “hide” their symptoms and carry on with their lives relatively unaffected. However, people with invisible illnesses often have to make adjustments to manage their symptoms. This can include changing their diet, avoiding triggers, or getting more rest. Managing their symptoms is a full-time job for some people with invisible illnesses.
How to cope with invisible illness
Invisible illnesses can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. Many people with an invisible illness struggle with fatigue, pain and brain fog daily. These symptoms can make it difficult to work, socialize, or even take care of basic self-care tasks.
Living with an invisible illness can be extremely isolating. Because the symptoms are not always outwardly visible, people with invisible illnesses often feel like no one understands what they’re going through. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. It’s essential for people with invisible illnesses to find support groups or online communities where they can connect with others who understand what they’re going through.
Coping with an invisible illness can be difficult, but there are ways to manage the symptoms and live a full life. With the right support, people with invisible illnesses can thrive. If you’re living with an invisible illness, it’s important to find a support system. Whether that’s an online community or a group of friends who understand what you’re going through, having people to talk to can make a big difference. Here are some other tips for coping with an invisible illness:
- Educate yourself about your condition. Learning about your illness can help you understand your symptoms and how to manage them.
- Find a healthy coping mechanism. This could be exercise, journaling or spending time in nature.
- Give yourself grace. Don’t expect to be able to do everything you did before your diagnosis. Be patient with yourself and listen to your body.
If you’re living with an invisible illness, know that you’re not alone. There are millions of people around the world who understand what you’re going through. With the right support, you can live a full and happy life.
How to support someone with an invisible illness
Support can come in many forms, but it’s important to be understanding and patient. Here are a few things you can do to support someone with an invisible illness:
- Educate yourself about the condition. This will help you understand the symptoms and how they can affect your loved one.
- Be patient. Invisible illnesses can be unpredictable, so flare-ups and bad days are to be expected.
- Offer practical help. This could include things like cooking, cleaning, or running errands.
- Listen and offer emotional support. Just being there for someone to talk to can make a big difference.
People with invisible illnesses often suffer in silence because their conditions are not outwardly visible. It’s important to educate yourself about these conditions and offer support to those who are struggling. With understanding and patience, we can create a more inclusive world for everyone.
WinSanTor is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of treatments for peripheral neuropathies. We believe in creating a solution that works and brings relief to millions that are struggling with this disease. Learn more about our company, our drug and subscribe to our newsletter.
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- “What Is an Invisible Illness? You Don’t Look Sick”. Verywell Mind
- “Chronic fatigue syndrome – Symptoms and causes”. Mayo Clinic
- “Fibromyalgia”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- “What Is Depression?”. American Psychiatric Association
- “Peripheral Neuropathy – Diagnosis and treatment”. Mayo Clinic
- “Managing and Coping with Neuropathy”. The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy