The simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient is known as comorbidity. And while this phenomenon isn’t the most medically common thing to occur, people with fibromyalgia are much more likely than the general population to have more than one chronic condition.
It is vital that people who live with fibromyalgia learn about the potential risks of developing other conditions. By knowing what they are and their associated symptoms, we will not only help our healthcare provider’s better control our symptoms, pain and discomfort, but will most importantly increase our health awareness and likely, our overall health.
Migraines: Research indicates migraine sufferers are more likely to have fibromyalgia. One study from 2011, published in The Journal of Headache and Pain, suggests migraine headaches may even trigger fibromyalgia. Many researchers believe that preventing migraines could possibly slow down or even stop the development of fibromyalgia in some people.
“These results suggest different levels of central sensitization in patients with migraine, fibromyalgia or both conditions and a role for migraine as a triggering factor for FMS. Prevention of headache chronification in migraine patients would thus appear crucial also for preventing the development of fibromyalgia in predisposed individuals or its worsening in co-morbid patients,” Italian researchers reported.
Autoimmune Diseases: Present in about 25% of cases, fibromyalgia co-exists with an autoimmune condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two serious autoimmune diseases that may accompany fibromyalgia are rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and lupus.
Further studies show at least 20% of RA patients also have fibromyalgia, but researchers have yet to understand the connection. The pain of RA can trigger fibromyalgia flares, worsen pain and symptoms, and vice versa.
Depression and Anxiety: A very common experience among fibromyalgia suffers is the development of anxiety and depression.
According to a 2011 report published in the journal Pain Research and Treatment, 90% of fibromyalgia patients have depressive symptoms at least once, and 86% of those people may suffer from a major depressive disorder. Depression and fibromyalgia occur at the same time in at least 40% cases — a connection that researchers are still trying to understand.
The prevalence of anxiety symptoms in fibromyalgia patient’s ranges from 13% to about 71%, according to Portuguese researchers.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome: The vast majority of fibromyalgia patients, up to 70 percent, also suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS is a digestive disorder that is characterized by cramping, bloating, constipation and abdominal pain.
Sleep Troubles: People with fibromyalgia are more likely to have restless leg syndrome (RLS) than others in the general population, according to a study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). RLS is a disorder that causes uncomfortable feelings in the legs and/or the urge to keep moving the legs. The AASM study, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, finds 33% of people with fibromyalgia also have RLS
Fibromyalgia is one of the great mysteries of the medical world. We don’t know exactly where it comes from, and we don’t know how to cure it. However, by understanding its relationship with other chronic ailments will allow us to better treat it, and hopefully, minimize the impact on the sufferers day to day life.