By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
The symptoms that commonly affect patients with fibromyalgia syndrome include pain, sleep problems, stiffness (especially after rest in the morning), fatigue, bowel upset (irritable bowel syndrome), depression, headaches etc. The pain and the symptoms of the condition tend to last a life time in most patients.
Fibromyalgia is present in around 0.5-10% of worldwide population with a seven times higher presence among females than males. Of the whole fibromyalgia affected population 85 to 90% are females.
Fibromyalgia and hormones
With more women being affected by the condition, a hormonal component, including the role of growth hormones and female sex hormones, have often been thought to be responsible.
This means that the regular menstrual cycle of the affected women may be affected. Fibromyalgia commonly affects and is diagnosed in women between ages of 20 and 55 years.
The menstrual cycle and pain
There have been studies that have explored the influence of the menstrual cycle on pain and emotion in women with fibromyalgia. The pain and emotional components have been assessed in both the follicular and the luteal phases of the menstrual cycle.
Results have revealed that women with fibromyalgia experience more pain, menstrual symptoms and irritable or poorer mood compared to healthy women or even women with another painful condition like rheumatoid arthritis.
The mood is often worst affected in the leuteal phase than in the follicular phase.
Fibromyalgia and menopause
Studies have also explored the connection between menopause and fibromyalgia. Since many women are diagnosed with fibromyalgia in their 40’s and 50’s their menopause may coincide with the diagnosis.
Menopause as such causes around 40% decline in levels of estrogen in a woman’s body and this leads to symptoms of sleeplessness, non-restorative sleep, depression, anxiety, soreness, irritability and body aches that is due to loss of calcium. These symptoms are all similar to fibromyalgia.
In addition estrogen normally modulates the function of serotonin and dopamine in improving mood, cognition and reducing pain perception. With menopause the estrogen levels decline and symptoms associated with lower serotonin and dopamine appear.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)
Last Updated: Jul 31, 2013