The coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which is caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), may cause post-acute COVID-19 syndrome (PACS). PACS is characterized by a large array of manifestations including fatigue, cognitive problems, sleep disturbances, and musculoskeletal complaints.
In a recent study published in the RMD Open journal, a team of researchers aimed to investigate the prevalence and predictors of fibromyalgia (FM) in patients who recovered from COVID-19. To this end, the authors of the current study found that clinical features of FM are common in patients who recovered from COVID-19. Males and those who are obese are at a higher risk of developing post-COVID-19 fibromyalgia.
Study: Fibromyalgia: a new facet of the post-COVID-19 syndrome spectrum? Results from a web-based survey. Image Credit: Hananeko_studio / Shutterstock.com
What is FM?
FM is a chronic condition that widespread musculoskeletal pain, as well as sleep problems, general fatigue, areas of tenderness, and cognitive disturbances. People with FM may be more sensitive to pain as compared to those without the condition.
Taken together, FM affects about 4 million adults in the United States, which is about 2% of the adult population. Though the exact cause is still unknown, the condition can be effectively treated and managed.
Some patients who recover from COVID-19 may experience persistent symptoms. Apart from the clinical manifestations of acute COVID-19, the long-term effects are emerging as a new and overwhelming challenge for healthcare systems.
Otherwise known as PACS, this condition is now being recognized as a long-term consequence of COVID-19. Musculoskeletal pain, which is the cardinal symptom of FM, has been reported in one-third of patients with acute COVID-19. As a result, this persistent pain is a hallmark symptom of PACS, along with cardiovascular, pulmonary, renal, dermatological, gastroenteric, and endocrine sequelae.
Today, the pathogenesis of FM has yet to be fully understood. Scientists believe that pain misperception appears to be tied to neuromorphological modifications and an imbalance between pronociceptive and antinociceptive pathways. These modifications may be developed as a result of stressful life events, genetic predisposition, neuroinflammation, and psychological characteristics, among other causes.
About the study
Over the years, internet-based surveys have gained growing popularity in medical and health research. These can reach a large pool of potential participants quickly, involving those who may be geographically dispersed or difficult to access. The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the use of web-based surveys, and there are now over 2,000 records that can be obtained on PubMed.
In the current study, the researchers report a web-based survey to investigate the prevalence of FM after symptomatic COVID-19. The authors of the current study also wanted to determine the predictive factors of post-COVID-19 FM syndrome development.
To arrive at the study findings, the team collected data between April 5 and 18, 2021 through an online form created using the Googles Forms platform, a free survey administration tool. Further, the team defined the presence of FM in the participants using the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) survey criteria, along with a Fibromyalgianess Scale or Fibromyalgia Symptom Scale (FS).
The collection contains 28 questions that gather the demographic information, features, and duration of acute COVID-19, underlying health conditions, and other valuable attributes like height and weight.
Overall, 616 people, 77.4% of whom were women, filled out the form. The study demonstrated that self-reported clinical features of FM are common after patients recovered from symptomatic COVID-19. The team estimates the prevalence at 31%, which is comparable to the 30% that was recently reported for PACS.
The respondents with FM showed features suggestive of a more serious COVID-19 form, especially those who had been hospitalized or required oxygen support. The study design, however, did not allow an accurate definition of COVID-19’s severity. The team also revealed that males and those who are obese are at an increased risk of a severe clinical course because of COVID-19.
“Our data suggest that clinical features of FM are common in patients who recovered from COVID-19 and that obesity and male gender affect the risk of developing post-COVID-19 FM."
The researchers added that due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, rheumatologists might face a sharp rise in cases of a new health condition called “FibroCOVID”.