The Disease That’s More Common Than Most People Think

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Chronic pain may be fibromyalgiaFibromyalgia—a pain condition that is difficult to diagnose and treat—may be afflicting a lot more people than we think. A new study, published in Arthritis Care & Research, suggests that a large number of North American adults, mainly men, have fibromyalgia, but have not been diagnosed with it.

One of the problems diagnosing fibromyalgia symptoms is that it can often overlap with other conditions or be mistaken for something else. Common symptoms include pain (which can be widespread and in different parts of the body), high fatigue, problems sleeping, memory lapses, and mood issues.

The study took place in Olmsted County, Minnesota, where a well-documented pool of medical records exists. Researchers used this pool in many ways to try to accurately gauge the number of people over 21 who had fibromyalgia. They found more than 3,000 patients who fit the description, only one-third of whom were actually diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

Using another method, they honed in on fibromyalgia-specific criteria, like widespread pain and tenderness, fatigue, feeling unrested after waking, cognitive problems (with memory or thinking clearly), and depression or anxiety. The survey respondents counted 830, and 44 of them met these criteria. Only 12 were diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

The researchers believe that as many as 6.4% of adults over 21 in the U.S. have fibromyalgia—far more than the number officially diagnosed. If we extrapolate this increase (about six times more people than believed), the numbers across North America could be much higher.

Though more common among women, men can get the disease as well. And men are, according to the new study, by far the more under-diagnosed of the two. Twenty times more men appeared to have fibromyalgia, based on their survey response, than had been diagnosed (compared to three times more women).

Sources for Today’s Articles:
The Disease That’s More Common Than Most People Think
Vincent, A., et al., “Prevalence of fibromyalgia: A population-based study in Olmsted County, Minnesota, utilizing the Rochester Epidemiology project,” Arthritis Care and Research, December 2012; 10.1002/acr.21896.

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