Chronic pain disorder linked to heightened risk of early death
Mayo Clinic defines fibromyalgia as a disorder characterised by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues
JERUSALEM: People living with fibromyalgia -- a severe chronic pain disorder that causes persistent widespread pain and fatigue -- could be increasingly vulnerabile to early death by accidents, infections, and especially suicide, suggests a study.
Mayo Clinic defines fibromyalgia as a disorder characterised by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain and spinal cord process painful and non-painful signals.
In the study, researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel said while it's not clear what causes fibromyalgia, its prevalence is increasing.
There is also a growing recognition that the condition often coexists with other health problems, including rheumatic, gut, neurological, and mental health disorders, which leads to an early death, they said.
To strengthen this hypothesis, the researchers reviewed the findings of 6 relevant studies, published between 1999 and 2020, and involving a total of 188,751 adults, all of whom had other coexisting conditions.
The analysis showed that fibromyalgia was associated with a 27 per cent heightened risk of death from all causes over time.
Specifically, the analysis showed that the risk of death from cancer was 12 per cent lower than it was for the general population of the same age, and only marginally higher (5 per cent) for accidents.
But it was 44 per cent higher for infections, including pneumonia and septicaemia, and more than 3 times as high for suicide.
The findings, published in the open access journal RMD Open, prompt the researchers to call for regular monitoring of patients’ physical and mental health to minimise these risks.
"Studies have shown that medical staff are reluctant to accept fibromyalgia as a medical condition, and they face emotional and psychological difficulties interacting with these patients and coping with their disorder," they said.
"Fibromyalgia is often called an 'imaginary condition', with ongoing debates on the legitimacy and clinical usefulness of this diagnosis. Our review provides further proof that fibromyalgia patients should be taken seriously, with particular focus on screening for suicidal ideation, prevention of accidents, and prevention and treatment of infections," they added.
While stating that no clear conclusions can be drawn from the available data, they said that the risks identified in their analysis "could represent a serious public health problem, given the high prevalence of the condition," which clinicians don't always take seriously.