A WOMAN who has a condition affecting thousands of people has called for a growing understanding of it after being questioned over not always using a wheelchair.

Laura Oliver was diagnosed with Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) aged 14.

The 28-year-old, originally from Cornwall, has lived in Haddington for three years but feels people do not understand the condition, the symptoms of which include fatigue, loss of balance, memory problems and seizures.

She said: “It is incredibly common [but] even within hospitals, the condition is not well advocated at all.

“I would be using a wheelchair about 30 per cent of the time. The rest of the time, I use a long cane because of my eyesight or my mobility scooter.

“I can get total paralysis and be stuck in bed for weeks at a time.”

On first finding out she had the condition, Laura said: “I got very, very clumsy.

“At first, I did not put it down to anything and just thought I was not very co-ordinated. Then I started to get fatigue and had to use a wheelchair.”

Other symptoms included a loss of sight, as well as the need to use catheters.

Originally, doctors diagnosed Laura with multiple sclerosis.

She said: “I was then told it was part of a depressive illness and I would get better.

“Then I met Dr Stone (who is now a professor at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh) and he was that one that said FND. It is life-limiting but not life-threatening.”

Laura, who grew up wanting to be a nurse in the navy, told the Courier how receiving a diagnosis had actually helped open up a community where she could discuss the condition.

However, she said not everyone was so understanding, with people often questioning if she truly had a condition.

She said: “I have had people say to me ‘I saw you walking one day and the next minute you are in a wheelchair’.

“On another occasion, I have had somebody saying it was mental health. They would say it is all in my head and that I need to see a psychiatrist.”

But she was quick to praise the work of groups such as Our Community Kitchen, which tackles social isolation through bringing people together three days a week for a three-course meal, and outreach programme Friday Friends.

Dawn Golder, executive director of FND Hope, which aims to promote awareness of FND and support for anyone affected by the condition, said: “Unfortunately, FND whilst common, is still highly stigmatised and many healthcare and medical professionals still think it is all in the patient’s ‘head’.

“I think the issue is in relation to historical names for FND.

“Research has now proven that many people with FND do not have to have a psychological/psychiatric element to their diagnosis.”