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Women With Fibromyalgia Report Increase In Cognitive Problems


According to a Spanish study published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology states that most women with fibromyalgia say they have memory problems and can’t concentrate, and the majority also suffer from anxiety and depression.

For those who are unaware, fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain and tenderness, fatigue, sleep disturbances, memory, and mood issues. Researchers believe that this condition amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way the brain processes pain signals. The condition tends to affect women more than it does men. Patients commonly have cognitive complaints, but doctors aren’t clear whether this is because of cognitive dysfunction or if clinical depression is the cause.

“Despite the wide acceptance of a high frequency of subjective cognitive complaints in patients with fibromyalgia, very few previous studies have specifically sought to quantify the extent of such complaints in this population,” according to authors of the study, which took place at Santa Maria Hospital in Lleida, a city in Spain’s northeastern Catalonia region.

The study was conducted as follows: Between August 2013 and March 2014, a total of 105 women with fibromyalgia were recruited to participate in a neuropsychological assessment, which included measures of attention and executive functions. Patients were assessed by completing questionnaires of several topics, including cognitive complaints, anxiety, depression, pain intensity, physical functioning, quality of sleep, and quality of life. The results were surprising.

Of those in the study, nearly 83 percent of the women had cognitive complaints, 23 percent of them mild and the other 60 percent moderate to severe. Depressive symptoms were generally described as low working memory ability and low everyday physical functioning and were more common in women who reported cognitive complaints. Collectively, 82 percent of women had symptoms of depression, and 70 percent had “significant levels of anxiety,” while 68.6 percent of the participants had both depression and anxiety.

“The results of this study confirm that subjective cognitive complaints are very frequent in fibromyalgia patients, but that they are not exclusively related to depressive symptoms; functional and objective cognitive dysfunction could also be involved in their manifestation,” researchers wrote. They also urged doctors to “not minimize” cognitive complaints by their patients.

There is always a bit of a stigma surrounding fibromyalgia as there is no known cause for it and often, some of the mental symptoms can be overlooked or minimized. This study opens the door for viewing the condition on a more holistic level, for in order to completely treat any ailment, it first needs to be fully understood.