According to a recent study, individuals suffering from fibromyalgia, a debilitating chronic pain disorder characterized by persistent widespread pain and fatigue, may face a significantly higher risk of early death due to accidents, infections, and particularly suicide. Fibromyalgia, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, manifests as a condition involving widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by issues such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, memory problems, and mood disorders. Researchers posit that fibromyalgia intensifies sensations of pain by impacting the processing of painful and non-painful signals in the brain and spinal cord.
The study, conducted by researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, highlights the increasing prevalence of fibromyalgia and its association with various other health complications, including rheumatic, gastrointestinal, neurological, and mental disorders, which contribute to premature mortality. To substantiate this hypothesis, the researchers reviewed six pertinent studies published between 1999 and 2020, involving a total of 188,751 adults, all of whom had coexisting medical conditions.
The analysis revealed that individuals with fibromyalgia faced a 27 percent higher risk of death from all causes over time. More specifically, the risk of death from cancer was 12 percent lower compared to the general population of the same age, while the risk of accidental death was only marginally higher at 5 percent. However, the risk of death from infections, including pneumonia and septicemia, was 44 percent higher, and the risk of suicide was more than three times higher. These findings, published in the open access journal RMD Open, emphasize the importance of regular monitoring of both the physical and mental health of fibromyalgia patients to mitigate these risks.
Fibromyalgia is sometimes dismissed as an “imaginary condition”
The researchers noted that medical professionals often exhibit reluctance to acknowledge fibromyalgia as a legitimate medical condition, leading to emotional and psychological challenges in interacting with patients and addressing their disorder. Fibromyalgia is sometimes dismissed as an “imaginary condition,” and debates persist regarding its legitimacy and clinical relevance. However, the review conducted in this study offers further evidence that fibromyalgia patients should be taken seriously, with particular attention given to screening for suicidal ideation, accident prevention, and the prevention and treatment of infections.
While cautioning that definitive conclusions cannot be drawn from the existing data, the researchers argue that the risks identified in their analysis could pose a significant public health concern, considering the high prevalence of the condition, which is often overlooked by healthcare professionals.