What is an invisible illness?

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MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE… About 90 percent of disabilities are not visible, with many Australians suffer from invisible illnesses in silence. Photo: Supplied.

Often when we think of someone living with a disability or illness, we think of those with ‘visible’ physical disabilities like those requiring wheelchairs or dealing with cancer. But there are also lots of other disabilities, invisible disabilities, that aren’t so easy to identify.

Surprisingly, about 90 percent of disabilities are not visible. This makes diagnosis difficult and reduces your chances of recovery. Additionally, people may not understand why you can’t work, focus on your projects, or complete your daily tasks. They might say that you’re lazy or unmotivated, or that it’s all in your head.

Some common invisible illnesses are:

Chronic pain affects one in five Australians and refers to persistent, ongoing pain. Conditions include migraines, osteoporosis, neuropathic pain, visceral pain, arthritis and other musculoskeletal ailments.

Lupus is a condition that revolves around the immune system, where your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, resulting in constant pain and inflammation. Approximately 20,000 people in Australia and New Zealand have lupus.

Fibromyalgia is an illness where sufferers experience pain and stiffness of muscles. Affecting two to five percent of the population, fibromyalgia symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Endometriosis is a condition where cells grow on the outside of the uterus. Symptoms can include painful periods, pelvic pain and fatigue or nausea. One in 10 women suffer from endometriosis.