By Denise Mann
About 10 million Americans have fibromyalgia, which is characterized by painful and tender points throughout the body; fatigue; insomnia; and cognitive problems known as fibro fog.
Unfortunately, people with fibromyalgia are more likely than people in the general population to have other conditions as well.
If you have fibromyalgia, here are seven other health problems.
A significant number of people with fibromyalgia also experience migraines and / or tension headaches, says Robert Duarte, MD, director of the Institute of Pain in the Jewish Health System of North Shore-Long Island, in Manhasset, NY
“An underlying disturbance in brain chemicals, serotonin and norepinephrine, plays a role in causing headaches and fibromyalgia,” he says.
Antidepressants that attack these brain chemicals can relieve migraine pain, he adds. Tension headache can also respond to tobiofeedback.
Up to a quarter of people with autoimmune inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome and ankylosing spondylitis, also experience 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 may somehow increase the risk of fibromyalgia.
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 overwhelming need to move your legs when you rest, can be up to 11 times more common in people with fibromyalgia than in those who do not. It is not understood exactly how the two are linked, but many fibromyalgia treatments also improve restless legs, not to mention the overall quality of sleep.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is marked by abdominal cramps and episodes of constipation and / or diarrhea. Between 30 and 70
“Like fibromyalgia, IBS is a pain syndrome,” says Dr. Arnold.
People with fibromyalgia are more likely to report pelvic pain, bladder irritability and menstrual cramps, and some of the medications that relieve fibromyalgia symptoms can also relieve these other pains.
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 a causal relationship or chicken and egg,” says Dr. Arnold. “(But) they can share common and underlying causes.”
A deficit of brain chemicals, serotonin and norepinephrine, is involved in both mood and pain disorders, he says. Many medications used to treat fibromyalgia are also antidepressants.
“Obesity and fibromyalgia share a complicated relationship, and one that we can not ignore,” says Dr. Arnold.
Many people with fibromyalgia lead sedentary lives due to their chronic pain, and the lack of regular physical activity increases the risk of being overweight or obese.
“Being overweight generates more mechanical stress on the joints, which can cause more pain and aggravate fibromyalgia,” says Dr. Arnold. In addition, fat stores are proinflammatory, which can also exacerbate pain.