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Fibromyalgia in Men
Fibromyalgia in men is so rare that some doctors do not believe that it is possible for men to get the disease. However, 10-20% of the fibromyalgia patient population is made up of men. There are a few distinct differences in how fibromyalgia in males is different from females. Doctors may consider treating men with fibromyalgia differently than women.
A diagnosis of fibromyalgia comes as a great surprise to many men who suffer from this complex, and sometimes mysterious, disease. Fibromyalgia mainly strikes women, but it does occur in men as well.
In 2012, medical researchers and rheumatologists are quite sure that fibromyalgia is triggered by some form of trauma or illness during childhood or adulthood.
This could be a surgery, a virus, an accident, an emotional event, or some chronic stressor like a poor relationship with a close relative. Some researchers are currently suggesting that fibromyalgia is related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Regardless of how the disease originally manifested, fibromyalgia has biologic markers or symptoms which are common to almost all patients.
The disease is unique in that it involves malfunctioning pain receptors in the brain, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or “leaky gut,” intense pain all over the body, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Just one of the symptoms of fibromyalgia is that there is too much of the brain chemical which signals pain, and not enough of the brain chemical which reduces and inhibits pain. Hormones are at play as well, which may be why more women have fibromyalgia than men.
How fibromyalgia affects men
The chief complaint that most people with fibromyalgia have is chronic and intense pain all over the body.
However, sleep disorders, IBS, chronic fatigue, depression and mood swings, headaches and migraines, “brain fog” and mental concentration issues, and restless leg syndrome are all a part of the fibromyalgia picture as well.
The most recent clinical research to determine how men and women respond differently to their fibromyalgia symptoms was published in February 2012 in the Spanish medical journal Psicothema.
In this study, fibromyalgia in males and females were studied by dividing people into groups of men with fibromyalgia, women with fibromyalgia, and healthy, cross-matched males.
Participants were given questionnaires and various algorhythms for pain, fatigue, sleep, functional impairment, emotional issues, and psychological well- being.
Immediately the researchers saw that there were clear differences between the health control group of men and all of the participants with fibromyalgia.
What interested the scientists was that the women with fibromyalgia were much more sensitive to pain than the men with fibromyalgia.
In the medical study, women described their pain as “catastrophic.” Men, on the other hand, described their pain in terms of not being able to sleep because of it.
The conclusion of the study was that health care providers should approach pain control in fibromyalgia differently in men than in women.
Fibromyalgia in men may go undiagnosed
Sometimes it is difficult to get a diagnosis of fibromyalgia in men because men tolerate pain better in general than women do, they usually do not complain about fatigue as much as women do, and men do not see a doctor as often as women do.
This is simply due to gender conditioning. In general, men just try to tough it out.
The biggest risk of men not seeing a health care provider, or taking any action when they are in pain and not well, is suicidal depression. A man often feels that if he cannot be a good provider, protector, and loving partner, he is worthless as a man.
A medical study published in a 2000 issue of Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism confirms this. A cross- matched study involved forty each of women and men with fibromyalgia were assessed for symptoms of the disease.
Tender points, number of symptoms and types of symptoms, pain thresholds, psychological status, quality of life, and physical function were all tabulated.
Women with fibromyalgia were clearly more affected by pain than men were. However, the men’s overall symptoms were much more severe.
Fibromyalgia in men causes a much greater decrease in physical function, and quality of life is much more greatly reduced in men than women. The scientists appeared quite concerned about the health outcomes in the men with fibromyalgia in the study group.
Sexual dysfunction is an enormous factor in fibromyalgia, but not one that fibromyalgia patients willingly admit to.
The Journal of Sexual Medicine released a study in 2012 which assessed a cross- matched group of healthy individuals and individuals with fibromyalgia. Sexual function was significantly worse in the fibromyalgia group, with both men and women.
The conclusion of this study was that fibromyalgia deeply affects every aspect of the patient’s sexual life.
What is the action plan for fibromyalgia in men?
Men with fibromyalgia must understand that a healthy diet, with some food restrictions such as with the Paleo diet, as well as exercise, are the first steps in reversing fibromyalgia symptoms.
These men may need prescription pain killers to help them function day- to- day, but they may also want to know about alternatives to drugs that have been clinically proven to help with fibromyalgia symptoms in both women and men.
The National Fibromyalgia Association states that it is important to treat all of the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Men have a tendency to under- report symptoms such as restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, and snoring.
However, these symptoms can be causing chronic sleep deprivation, which can lead to a host of health and relationship issues. Men also need to report intestinal issues, neck and back pain, range of motion issues, and any emotional issues they are facing.
Sexual issues such as a lack of interest in sex or erectile dysfunction must be discussed as well.
By reporting every symptom, men with fibromyalgia can learn about a variety of treatment options.
Choices range from pharmaceutical drugs for pain to herbs for depression and sleep disturbances, to probiotics for IBS, Qi gong for flexibility, massage therapy for aching muscles, and meditation techniques to help reduce stress.
Web MD.com, “How Fibromyalgia Affects Men,” by Matt McMillen
Fibromyalgia Symptoms.org, “Men with Fibromyalgia”
Science Daily.com, “Fibromyalgia Affects Women More Than Men”
Pubmed.gov, Psicothema. 2012 Feb; 24(1):10-5. “Fibromyalgia in men and women: comparison of the main clinical symptoms.” Miró E, Diener FN, et al.
Pubmed.gov, Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism. 2000 Aug; 30(1):47-51. “Fibromyalgia syndrome in men.” Buskila D, Neumann L, et al.
Pubmed.gov, Journal of Sexual Medicine. 2012 Feb;9(2):542-9. “Sexual functioning in women and men with fibromyalgia.” Rico-Villademoros F, Calandre EP, et al.
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