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Is Fibromyalgia Worse for Young People?
According to a recent study, young individuals with fibromyalgia suffer more and have a lower quality of life than older fibromyalgia patients. Find out why below.
A recent preliminary study conducted by the Mayo Clinic and presented at the American College of Rheumatology in October, 2013 has indicated that the quality of life for fibromyalgia patients may be worse for younger patients.
These surprising study results were found after several month of study looking at over 900 persons with fibromyalgia, including both men and women. The study is the first of its kind, and offers potentially new insight into the treatment and management for fibromyalgia in patients of all ages.
Fibromyalgia is a condition of chronic pain. It can affect both men and women, although it is more common in women- for reasons that are medically unknown. Fibromyalgia often affects certain “tender zones” including the head, neck, knees, elbows, shoulders, and hips. Fibromyalgia symptoms are quite varied, and can include symptoms such as:
Fibromyalgia is not linked to any particular “cause” medically. However, researchers have identified three contributing factors to an increase in Fibromyalgia symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. These factors include:
Infections: Some infections can lead to the aggravation of existing fibromyalgia symptoms or trigger a flare-up. These infections include: HCV infections, Chlamydia pneumoniae, Parvovirus B19, and Epstein Barr Virus.
Genetics: Fibromyalgia appears to run in families. Certain genetic mutations could be responsible for the development of the disorder, or for the decrease in pain tolerance.
Trauma: New research has indicated that physical or emotional trauma could lead to the development of fibromyalgia. Some individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have also developed fibromyalgia. Physical or emotional abuse could also possibly trigger any feelings of touch into pain.
In fact, a study from 1995 conducted by McGill University in Canada indicated that when compared with a control group, 83 women suffering from fibromyalgia symptoms were more likely to have a history of sexual, physical, and drug abuse (17, 18, and 16 percent).
The 2013 study from the Mayo Clinic studied a total of 978 fibromyalgia patients. These patients were divided into three groups based on age. The groups included patients aged 39 and younger, patients between age 40 to 60, and patients aged 60 and older. In the youngest group, the patients were healthier overall. They were more likely to have a higher education level, lower BMI, and be employed. The patients had also had the condition for less time than the older groups.
On the bad side of the spectrum, the patients were also more likely to be unmarried and be a smoker. Many of the young patients had a history of emotional, physical, or substance abuse. The researchers noted that most of the female patients had a lower quality of life than the average for American women. T
he researchers found that it was the physical health of the young women that was lower than average versus the mental health of the patients. The researchers have yet to fully investigate the cause or full implications of the study. Since these findings have yet to be peer-reviewed, they are only considered preliminary. However, this data does indicate that fibromyalgia can have a large impact on a young person’s life- and always for the worse.
Fibromyalgia will have several undesirable effects on a person’s life, as listed below:
Since fibromyalgia is such a devastating condition that affects nearly all areas of life, it is not hard to see how the condition can cause harm to ordinary, everyday life. Younger people may see worse side effects than older people, simply because younger people are expected to do more, and remain active and healthy for work, relationships, and more. Fibromyalgia can negatively affect the following areas of a person’s life:
Fibromyalgia does not always cause pain in most patients. Many patients can do days or even weeks between flare-ups. But much like a migraine, fibromyalgia flare-ups can occur at any time. This causes the patient to require immediate treatment- usually going to bed and taking pain medication. Frequent flare-ups could jeopardize a career, leading to job loss and a reduced income. Patients with chronic flare-ups may not be able to work at all.
A person in constant pain has trouble communicating and interacting with others. Pain makes it difficult to enjoy the presence of others. Chronic pain can also prevent someone from going out and experiencing life with a partner. Although the Mayo Clinic study did not list why fibromyalgia sufferers were more likely to be single, the presence of constant pain could be a reason.
The 1995 McGill study has indicated that the link between abuse and fibromyalgia is real. The Mayo Clinic study indicated that young fibromyalgia patients were more likely to have suffered abuse of some kind in their past. This could be a reason for why fibromyalgia is affecting younger people- as a response to outside trauma. Chronic pain may also cause a fibromyalgia patient to seek out drugs or alcohol as a mask for the constant pain that they feel.
Chronic pain can lead to a lower overall quality of life and health. For example, a person in constant pain will not want to take the effort to exercise, as all forms of exercise could cause extreme pain. Fibromyalgia patients often suffer from other side effects, including irritable bowel syndrome, which makes it difficult to eat a variety of healthy foods. Sleep problems can quickly lead to a lowered immune system and an increase in illness. All of these factors are contributors to lower overall health in fibromyalgia patients.
If regular fibromyalgia is not painful enough, some FMS patients have other conditions on top of FMS. According to USA Health, around 7 percent of fibromyalgia patients also have inflammatory rheumatic conditions. Other patients may have symptoms like excessive sweating, painful burning, disability, and obesity. Obese patients may be more sensitive to pain than fibromyalgia patients with smaller frames. Some patients also suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.
Can you treat fibromyalgia at home? According to The Mayo Clinic, there are some things you can do to reduce your symptoms and chances of seeing a flare-up. These methods include:
Sleep: Fatigue is a side effect of fibromyalgia. This means that effective sleep is more important than ever for fibromyalgia patients. You can reduce insomnia symptoms by reducing stress throughout the day, exercising regularly, and supplementing with sleep-promoting supplements.
Reduce stress: Stress may trigger a fibromyalgia flare-up. Try to avoid stress and overexertion as much as possible. Create a relaxing period of rest every day, and don’t feel guilty to saying “no” to extra activities at night. However, eliminating all activities can also be harmful. Try to strike a balance that is engaging, but not stressful. Stress-management techniques, like deep breathing and meditation, can help you feel calmer throughout the day.
Exercise: Exercise can be painful at first, but according to The Mayo Clinic, gradually adding exercise into your day may help you see a reduction in symptoms. Try simple, low-pain exercises like swimming, walking, and biking. Stretching and relaxation-based exercises (like yoga), can also be helpful for managing pain levels.
Don’t be extreme: Dealing with fibromyalgia means you will have some good days and some bad days. On good days, don’t try to make up for all the bad days and do everything at once. Overdoing it could lead to an increase in number of bad days. Try to maintain as normal of an activity level as possible during bad days. This will help you function as normally as possible with the condition.
Keep healthy: A healthy lifestyle could help manage painful flare-ups and may even reduce the number of bad days you see. Avoiding caffeine is one easy fix, as is maintaining a healthy diet. Try to stick to anti-inflammatory foods, as excessive inflammation could lead to an increase in symptoms. The following supplements may also help reduce painful flare-ups and the number of bad days:
Fibromyalgia in a young person is painful and can cause many disruptions in day-to-day life. However, there are several ways to manage the condition that will reduce the ill effects of the condition on daily life. The most important thing to do is try to reduce stress, maintain as many normal activities as possible, eat healthfully, exercise regularly, and supplement with fibromyalgia-fighting supplements so that you can life as normally as possible. Without the help of these methods, you may find that your quality of life is far below the average young person’s, which can lead to feelings of depression and even worse fibromyalgia symptoms. As with any condition, remaining positive is an important step to beating the condition and living a healthy life.
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