By Denise Mann
About 10 million Americans have fibromyalgia, which is characterized by painful and tender points along the body; tired; insomnia; and cognitive problems known as fibro fog.
Unfortunately, people with fibromyalgia are more likely than people in the general population to also have other health problems.
If you have fibromyalgia, here are seven other health problems.
According to Robert Duarte, MD, director of the Pain Institute of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in Manhasset, NY, a significant number of people with fibromyalgia also experience migraine headaches. and / or tension headaches.
“An underlying disruption in brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine plays a role in headaches and fibromyalgia,” he says.
Antidepressants that target these brain chemicals can relieve migraine pain, he adds. The tension headache can also respond to biofeedback.
Up to a quarter of people with autoimmune inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome and ankylosing spondylitis, also have symptoms of fibromyalgia. The precise nature of this connection is not yet understood.
Fibromyalgia is not an inflammatory disease, but some research suggests that RA and other inflammatory diseases can somehow increase the risk of fibromyalgia.
Legs without rest
Insomnia and other sleep problems are common in patients with fibromyalgia, says Lesley Arnold MD, a psychiatrist at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. Restless legs, or the irresistible urge to move the legs at rest, can be up to 11 times more common in people with fibromyalgia than in those who do not. Exactly how the two are linked is not fully understood, but many fibromyalgia treatments also improve restless legs, not to mention the overall quality of sleep.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is characterized by abdominal cramps and episodes of constipation and / or diarrhea. Between 30% and 70% of people with fibromyalgia also have IBS.
“Like fibromyalgia, IBS is a pain syndrome,” says Dr. Arnold.
People with fibromyalgia are more likely to report pelvic pain, irritability of the bladder and menstrual cramps, and some of the medications that relieve the symptoms of fibromyalgia can also relieve these other pain.
More research is needed to understand how these pain conditions are related to fibromyalgia.
Depression and anxiety
More than half of people with fibromyalgia also experience mental or emotional problems, such as depression and anxiety, at some point in their lives. “It’s less of a causal relationship or the chicken and the egg,” says Dr. Arnold. “(But) they can share common and underlying causes.”
A deficit of brain chemicals, serotonin and norepinephrine is involved in mood and pain disorders, she says. Many drugs used to treat fibromyalgia are also antidepressants.
“Obesity and fibromyalgia share a complicated relationship, and it’s a relationship we can not ignore,” says Dr. Arnold.
Many people with fibromyalgia lead a sedentary lifestyle because of their chronic pain, and a lack of regular physical activity increases their risk of being overweight or obese.
“Being overweight puts more stress on your joints, which can cause more pain and aggravate fibromyalgia,” says Dr. Arnold. In addition, fat stores are pro-inflammatory, which can also exacerbate pain.