By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Fibromyalgia is a condition with widespread debilitating pain. It is present in around 0.5-10% of worldwide population with a seven times higher presence among females than males.
Apart from pain there are symptoms of fatigue, sleep disorders, stiffness, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, memory or concentration problems etc.
The condition has no cure and most often patients continue to have symptoms throughout life.
There are several approaches to treating fibromyalgia. Apart from pain relievers and antidepressants that seem to ease symptoms are structured exercises that may help patients with fibromyalgia.
There is scientific evidence that different forms of fibromyalgia progress differently with varying severity. These can be clearly distinguished based on clinical characteristics. However, there are no clear cut definitions of degrees of severity.
Most studies define the progression as a continuum or a continuing ongoing process. There is no generally accepted classification for the degree of severity for fibromyalgia in particular.
Studies have shown that increased drug consumption and physical and mental health associated conditions like migraine, irritable bowel syndrome and depression and anxiety lead to a progressive increase in physical distress and subjective disturbances.
The severity levels are more often than not measured using the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ).
Evidence of risk of death or mortality with fibromyalgia
There is a strong consensus from studies that fibromyalgia typically affects the quality of life due to its symptoms. Studies also show that mortality or risk of death does not rise with fibromyalgia.
Large studies comparing fibromyalgia patients with other chronic pain conditions like osteoarthritis show that the death rate was not elevated in fibromyalgia.
Reports find that the standardized risk of suicide with fibromyalgia is increased when compared to the US population [odds ratio (OR) 3.3, 95% CI 2.2–5.1].
Some studies have also shown that female patients with fibromyalgia are more likely to commit suicide than males with fibromyalgia.
Compliance and adherence to treatment
It is important that any chronic sufferer be adherent to treatment for its maximum efficacy. It has been found that due to relief from symptoms, patient’s wellbeing and a lower level of patient distress, the adherence to the medication, behavioral therapies and exercise regiments is higher among patients with fibromyalgia.
Patients with greater pain and better emotional health are more compliant to exercise therapy and other treatment modalities compared to those with depression and other associated mental health disturbances.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)
Last Updated: Jul 31, 2013