Fibromyalgia Might Be Harder on Younger Patients, Study Finds

Research compared symptom severity, quality of life in various age groups

SATURDAY, Oct. 26, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Young and middle-aged fibromyalgia patients report worse symptoms and poorer quality of life than older patients, a new study reveals.

Fibromyalgia is characterized by symptoms such as musculoskeletal pain and tenderness, fatigue, and sleep and memory problems. The disorder, which most often affects women, has no known causes and few effective treatments.

The study included 978 fibromyalgia patients who were divided into three age groups: 39 and younger, 40 to 59, and 60 and older. The younger and middle-aged patients were more likely to be employed, unmarried, smokers, have a higher education level and lower body-mass index (BMI), a measure of body fat that takes height and weight into account.

They were also more likely to have a history of abuse and to have had fibromyalgia symptoms for a shorter length of time than older patients, the study authors said.

"Among the three age groups of young, middle-aged and older, symptom severity and quality of life differs," study senior author Dr. Terry Oh, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said in a clinic news release.

The findings were surprising, because older people generally have poorer quality of life and physical health than younger people, Oh said.

The researcher noted that female fibromyalgia patients in all three age groups reported a lower quality of life than average U.S. women, and that the difference between their physical health and that of the average woman was more significant than mental health differences, particularly in young patients.

The study was to be presented this week at the American College of Rheumatology annual meeting, in San Diego.

In other Mayo studies presented at the meeting, researchers found that about 7 percent of fibromyalgia patients have inflammatory rheumatic conditions and that these patients don't respond as well to treatment as those without rheumatic diseases, and that fibromyalgia patients may also have skin-related symptoms such as excessive sweating, burning and other sensations.

Because the studies were presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about fibromyalgia.

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