Patients with axial spondyloarthritis, which affects the spine, are often affected by fibromyalgia, which worsens the impact of the disease on their quality of life.
Although physical and psychological health is affected, the presence of fibromyalgia did not affect the levels of inflammation, or most symptoms of the disease not related to the spine.
The study, “The Co-occurrence of Spondyloarthritis and Axial Fibromyalgia: National Registry Results (BSRBR-AS)” was presented at the Meeting of Rheumatology 2017, held April 25-27 in Birmingham, England.
Axial spondyloarthritis is a condition in which inflammation in the spine causes some vertebrae to merge, leading the patient to a stooped posture.
Unlike fibromyalgia, the disease is more common in men.
Doctors have noted that fibromyalgia sometimes appears among these patients, so far the two conditions were not part of a joint study.
A team of researchers at the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom recruited patients from the British Society for the Registry of Biological Rheumatology for Ankylosing Spondylitis (BSRBR-AS).
Since 2015, patients included in the registry are also examined for fibromyalgia.
Of the 886 patients included in the study, 69% were men and 17.7%, or one in six, were diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
Patients included had recently started treatment with antibodies against tumor necrosis factor (TNF), to do the work of inflammation, or had never used any biological medicine.
Those with axial spondyloarthritis and fibromyalgia had higher scores in assessing the severity and impact of the spinal cord condition.
They were also more likely to have anxiety, depression and significant fatigue.
In addition, they obtained lower scores on measures in terms of quality of life.
While only 3% of patients with axial spondylarthritis reported that being absent from work was the result of their condition, 17% of people with both conditions reported absenteeism.
When they work, 52% of those with fibromyalgia said their work has deteriorated by about half.
In contrast, the number of patients with spondylarthritis without fibromyalgia was 23% in the same situation.
C-reactive protein levels – a marker of inflammation – were similar in both groups of patients.
The only non-spinal symptom, which was more common among those who had fibromyalgia, was joint swelling.