People with fibromyalgia are more likely than others in the general population to have other chronic conditions. But doctors still have to discover why fibromyalgia often coexists with other diseases, which is known as “comorbidity.”
Patients with fibromyalgia often have migraines, autoimmune diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, anxiety and sleep disorders. Having multiple conditions of overlap is not easy, and increases physical pain and suffering.
It is important for all of us with fibromyalgia to learn about these conditions and their symptoms. Being well informed about them will help us and our medical providers to better control our symptoms, pain and overall health.
Here are several common medical conditions faced by people who also have fibromyalgia:
Migraines: Research indicates that people with migraine are more likely to have fibromyalgia. A 2011 study, published in The Journal of Headache and Pain, suggests that migraines can even trigger fibromyalgia. Researchers believe that preventing migraines could stop or slow the development of fibromyalgia in some people or minimize symptoms in people with fibromyalgia.
“These results suggest different levels of central sensitization in patients with migraine, fibromyalgia or both conditions and a role for migraine as a triggering factor for FMS. The prevention of the chronification of headache in patients with migraine would also be crucial to prevent the development of fibromyalgia in predisposed individuals or their worsening in comorbid patients, “Italian researchers reported.
Autoimmune diseases: in approximately 25% of cases, fibromyalgia coexists with an autoimmune disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two serious autoimmune diseases that can accompany fibromyalgia are rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and lupus.
Other studies show that at least 20% of patients with RA also have fibromyalgia, but researchers have not yet understood the connection. The pain of RA can trigger fibromyalgia attacks, worsen pain and symptoms, and vice versa.
In 2016, researchers in the United Kingdom tried to determine whether RA patients who also had fibromyalgia had lower levels of joint inflammation. The results of their study, published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, determined that patients with fibromyalgia with RA had “generalized sensitivity to soft tissues but fewer clinically inflamed joints, had higher scores on disease activity but could have lower levels. of synovial inflammation [joint] “.
The researchers suggested that different treatment approaches can benefit these patients.
“These patients are less likely to respond to the intensification of inflammation suppression therapy and may be more suitable for other forms of treatment, including alternative means of pain control and psychological support,” they wrote.
It is also not uncommon for lupus and fibromyalgia to co-occur. However, fibromyalgia is not more common in lupus than other autoimmune diseases, according to researchers at the National Data Bank for Rheumatic Diseases.
Depression and anxiety: people with fibromyalgia often experience depression and anxiety.
According to a 2011 report published in the journal Pain Research and Treatment, 90% of patients with fibromyalgia have depressive symptoms at least once, and 86% of those people may suffer a major depressive disorder. Depression and fibromyalgia occur at the same time in at least 40% of cases, a connection that researchers are still trying to understand.
The prevalence of anxiety symptoms in patients with fibromyalgia ranges from 13% to 71%, according to Portuguese researchers.
Irritable bowel syndrome: most patients with fibromyalgia (up to 70%) also suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a digestive disorder characterized by abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.
Sleep disturbances: Most people with fibromyalgia report that they have trouble sleeping. No matter how much they sleep, they feel rested. Restless legs syndrome, unrefreshing sleep, and sleep apnea are all sleep problems associated with fibromyalgia.
People with fibromyalgia are more likely to have restless legs syndrome (RLS) than others in the general population, according to a study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). SPI is a disorder that causes uncomfortable feelings in the legs and / or the need to continue moving the legs. The AASM study, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, finds that 33% of people with fibromyalgia also have RLS.
Up to 90% of patients with fibromyalgia experience unrefreshing sleep, a feeling of not having a good night’s sleep, even though they seem to have slept.
A 2013 study published in Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology reports that 61% of men with fibromyalgia suffer from sleep apnea, as well as 32% of women. Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where breathing is interrupted during sleep.
Living with Fibromyalgia and Coexisting Conditions
In addition to suffering from fibromyalgia, I also suffer from three coexisting conditions: rheumatoid arthritis, depression and anxiety. By having both AR and fibromyalgia, I have had problems with more severe symptoms, which include muscle and joint pain and cognitive problems. I know that dealing with this debilitating pain produces depression and anxiety, and both have been frequent visitors of my life.
I am aware of the effect that multiple conditions have on my well-being and hard work to improve my overall health. I know that I can still have a good quality of life, despite the many obstacles that fibromyalgia presents and its multiple concurrent conditions.
There are other conditions related to fibromyalgia that I have not mentioned, but they are still important. Understanding how fibromyalgia coexists with these conditions may one day help researchers develop better treatments for fibromyalgia.