Who Gets Fibromyalgia?

Years of research show that there is no "typical" fibromyalgia patient and almost anyone can get fibromyalgia.

According to a landmark study of more than 3,000 residents of Wichita, Kansas, the overall prevalence of fibromyalgia is about 2%, or one out of 50 people. This Wichita study identified two clear risk factors for fibromyalgia: gender and age.

Women are roughly ten times more likely than men to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia. The study showed that 3.4 percent of women, and just 0.5 percent of men, diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

The Wichata study also showed that women in their 70's are eight times more likely to have fibromyalgia than women in their 20s. Only 0.9% of women between the ages of 18 and 29 suffered from fibromyalgia as opposed to 7.4%t of women between the ages of 70 and 79. Male patients did not show a significant increase in fibromyalgia with age. Another study determined that the average age of onset among fibromyalgia sufferers is 46.

In the past, fibromyalgia was thought to be more common among those who were depressed. But researchers have found that depression is most often the result of the syndrome not its cause.

Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome or irritable bowel syndrome (alternating constipation and diarrhea) may be more likely than others to develop fibromyalgia. In addition, those with a rheumatological conditions, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, may be more likely to develop fibromyalgia.

Roughly one-half of those diagnosed with fibromyalgia identify the onset of symptoms shortly after a flulike illness or after a traumatic event, such as an auto accident, divorce, or the death of a spouse.

Some studies have suggested that Lyme disease is a potential trigger of fibromyalgia, however, other studies have failed to show Lyme disease is any more likely to trigger fibromyalgia than other infection or traumatic event.

References

"Prevalence of primary and secondary fibrositis," by F. Wolfe and M.A. Cathey, Journal of Rheumatology, Vol. 10, 1983, pages 965-968.

"The prevalence and characteristics of fibromyalgia in the general population," by F. Wolfe et al, Arthritis and Rheumatism, Vol. 38, No. 1, 1995, pages 19-28.

"Fibromyalgia and menopause," by J. Waxman and S. McSherry Zatzkis, Postgraduate Medicine, Vol. 80, No. 4, Sept. 15, 1986, pages 165-171.

"Recognizing fibromyalgia," by R. Bennett, H.A. Smythe, and F. Wolfe, Patient Care, March 15, 1992, page 211-228.

"Lyme disease associated with fibromyalgia," by H. Dinerman and A.C. Steere, Annals of Internal Medicine, Vol. 117, No. 4, Aug. 15, 1992, pages 281-285.

"Aspects of fibromyalgia in the general population," by Wolfe et. al., Journal of Rheumatology, January 1995, pages 151-6.

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Last updated: 5/13/2022