Most teens with fibromyalgia suffer pain, fatigue as adults

February 26, 2014 by Dennis Thompson, Healthday Reporter
Most teens with fibromyalgia suffer pain, fatigue as adults
Four of five continued to experience symptoms, while half had full-blown disorder, study finds.

(HealthDay)—Four out of five teens suffering from juvenile fibromyalgia will continue to have pain and other symptoms in adulthood, a new study finds.

About half of these children will end up as grown-ups with full-blown adult , the researchers found.

"Half of the former teens we studied met the full criteria for adult fibromyalgia, and another 35 percent of them continued to have symptoms of fatigue, pain and sleep difficulty, but did not meet all the criteria for fibromyalgia syndrome," said study author Susmita Kashikar-Zuck, research director in behavioral medicine and clinical psychology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

The study, published in the March print issue of Pediatrics, stemmed from research into juvenile fibromyalgia, Kashikar-Zuck said.

Fibromyalgia is a mysterious disorder that causes and fatigue. People with the syndrome complain of sensitive places in their body that hurt when pressure is applied.

"It appears to be caused by a pain hypersensitivity in the central nervous system," Kashikar-Zuck said. "It's sort of like the volume is turned up on pain, and now they are exquisitely sensitive to pain."

Doctors aren't certain what causes fibromyalgia, although genetics may play a role. "Many of the children we see who have fibromyalgia have a parent with fibromyalgia," Kashikar-Zuck noted.

Between 80 percent and 90 percent of fibromyalgia patients are female, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Juvenile fibromyalgia can drastically affect a teen's life, causing missed school days and withdrawal from social activities, Kashikar-Zuck said.

Researchers wondered if these problems continued into adulthood, and decided to follow a group of 94 teenagers with juvenile fibromyalgia for six years. The teens were diagnosed with the disease between 2002 and 2010, with an average age at diagnosis of 15.

The study authors found that 51 percent of the patients, now with an average age of 21, continued to have symptoms that meet the American College of Rheumatology's criteria for adult fibromyalgia.

More than one-third did not meet the standards for a full diagnosis but still complained of specific symptoms related to fibromyalgia. These included pain, fatigue and difficulty sleeping.

When compared to healthy young adults their age, the patients who had experienced juvenile fibromyalgia reported significantly higher pain, poorer physical function, greater anxiety and more visits to the doctor.

Dr. Anne Eberhard, a pediatric rheumatologist at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, said these results make sense given the major role that stress plays in fibromyalgia.

"It is not surprising that the symptoms are still seen and persist into early adulthood, where major life decisions are being made," Eberhard said.

The study also found that juvenile fibromyalgia patients were more likely to be married as young adults compared with healthy folks their age, but were less likely to have attended college. About 62 percent had attended some college or obtained a degree, compared with 76 percent of the healthy control group.

While these findings could seem discouraging for juvenile fibromyalgia patients, Eberhard said one can look at the glass as being half-full rather than half-empty.

"Nearly half of the originally diagnosed patients with fibromyalgia were improved to the point that they no longer fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia. Many of the patients in the study with fibromyalgia were attending college and indeed some had married and even given birth," she said.

"This is very encouraging as despite having more pain than the controls, these patients were able to lead a normal, productive life," she added.

Even more encouraging is the fact that fibromyalgia treatment options have improved in recent years, particularly for adults, said Dr. Lucinda Bateman, founder of the Fatigue Consultation Clinic in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved antidepressant and anticonvulsant medications for adult fibromyalgia, and cognitive behavioral therapy—a type of mental health counseling—can be useful in helping patients better cope with their pain. Physical activity also has proven effective in controlling symptoms, the study says.

"It doesn't surprise me that many still have the symptoms, but it appears they do have a better chance of moving through it," Bateman said.

The study does emphasize the importance of properly diagnosing juvenile fibromyalgia, Bateman and Kashikar-Zuck said.

"Parents need to be careful about differentiating growing pains with fibromyalgia," Kashikar-Zuck said. "If they see a child who also has chronic muscle but also sleeplessness, they should seriously consider whether an evaluation should be done for fibromyalgia."

Explore further: Cold weather hits fibromyalgia sufferers hard

More information: Visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health for more on fibromyalgia.

Related Stories

Cold weather hits fibromyalgia sufferers hard

January 31, 2014
Cold temperatures, such as those gripping the Midwest over the past week, are tough on everybody. But for individuals with fibromyalgia, whose symptoms include chronic, widespread pain, the big freeze is especially difficult ...

Psychological intervention reduces disability and depression in adolescents with fibromyalgia

November 22, 2011
A recent trial shows cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) reduces functional disability and depressive symptoms in adolescents with juvenile fibromyalgia. The psychological intervention was found to be safe and effective, and ...

Fatigue not a factor in fibromyalgia pain, study says

April 26, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Poor sleep is not a significant predictor of pain intensity and duration in patients with fibromyalgia, a new study says.

Men with fibromyalgia often go undiagnosed, Mayo Clinic study suggests

December 19, 2012
Fibromyalgia is a complex illness to diagnose and to treat. There is not yet a diagnostic test to establish that someone has it, there is no cure and many fibromyalgia symptoms—pain, fatigue, problems sleeping and memory ...

Young people report worse fibromyalgia than older patients, study shows

October 26, 2013
It may seem counterintuitive, but young and middle-aged fibromyalgia patients report worse symptoms and poorer quality of life than older patients, a Mayo Clinic study shows. Fibromyalgia most often strikes women. It is characterized ...

Pleasure and pain brain signals disrupted in fibromyalgia patients

November 5, 2013
New research indicates that a disruption of brain signals for reward and punishment contributes to increased pain sensitivity, known as hyperalgesia, in fibromyalgia patients. Results published in Arthritis & Rheumatism, ...

Recommended for you

New comparison chart sheds light on babies' tears

July 10, 2017
A chart that enables parents and clinicians to calculate if a baby is crying more than it should in the first three months of its life has been created by a Kingston University London researcher, following a study of colic ...

Blood of SIDS infants contains high levels of serotonin

July 3, 2017
Blood samples from infants who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) had high levels of serotonin, a chemical that carries signals along and between nerves, according to a study funded in part by the National Institutes ...

Is your child's 'penicillin allergy' real?

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many children suspected of being allergic to the inexpensive, first-line antibiotic penicillin actually aren't, new research indicates.

Probiotic supplements failed to prevent babies' infections

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Probiotic supplements may not protect babies from catching colds or stomach bugs in day care, a new clinical trial suggests.

Starting school young can put child wellbeing at risk

June 22, 2017
New research has shown that the youngest pupils in each school year group could be at risk of worse mental health than their older classmates.

Fidget spinners are the latest toy craze, but the medical benefits are unclear

June 21, 2017
Last week, German customs agents in Frankfurt Airport seized 35 metric tons of an imported plastic device, destroying the shipment for public safety purposes before it could infiltrate the country's marketplaces.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

chiefsfan37
not rated yet Feb 27, 2014
Has anyone tried topical pain relief to fight their fibro pain? It has the prescription strength pain relief that specific pills do, however, there are no pills or side effects. I get my topical pain gels through my pharmacy in the midwest, A&R Pharmacy in Liberty, MO, and simply apply the gel whenever I'm in pain. I've been using it for six months and had more than significant results since going this route and I highly recommend it for anyone struggling with pain and/or pills. I hope this helps!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.