According to a comprehensive analysis of current evidence, fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by persistent widespread pain and exhaustion, has been found to be associated with a higher risk of mortality. Individuals with fibromyalgia are particularly susceptible to accidents, infections, and, notably, suicide. To mitigate these risks, researchers recommend regular evaluation of patient’s physical and mental health.
The exact cause of fibromyalgia remains unclear; however, researchers note that its prevalence is on the rise. Moreover, it is increasingly recognized that fibromyalgia often coexists with other health conditions such as rheumatic, gut, neurological, and mental health disorders.
Considering the severe pain experienced by individuals with fibromyalgia and the likelihood of additional debilitating conditions, it is likely that their lifespan may be compromised. To explore this hypothesis further, researchers examined the findings of eight relevant studies published between 1999 and 2020 out of an initial pool of 33. They analyzed data from six of these studies, involving a total of 188,751 adults, all of whom had other coexisting conditions.
The analysis revealed a 27% increased risk of all-cause mortality over time among individuals with fibromyalgia. However, this increased risk was not observed in those diagnosed according to the 1990 criteria. It is important to note that diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia have evolved since 1990 to encompass a broader range of clinical symptoms associated with the condition. The criteria were revised in 2010, 2011, and 2016, as highlighted by the researchers.
Specifically, the analysis indicated a 12% lower risk of death from cancer compared to the general population of the same age, a slightly higher risk of accidents (5%), a 44% higher risk of infections (including pneumonia and septicemia), and more than three times the risk of death by suicide.
The researchers provided plausible explanations for their findings. They suggested that the increased mortality risk from accidents could be attributed to the fatigue, unrefreshing sleep, and concentration difficulties often experienced by individuals with fibromyalgia, which have been part of the diagnostic criteria since 2010. Furthermore, evidence supporting immune system involvement and inflammation in fibromyalgia pathophysiology could explain the elevated mortality risk from infections. Physical comorbidity may also contribute to the observed risks.
Considering the high prevalence of fibromyalgia and the tendency of some healthcare professionals to dismiss it as a legitimate condition, the identified risks represent a significant public health concern. The researchers emphasized the importance of taking fibromyalgia seriously, focusing on screening for suicidal ideation, accident prevention, and infection prevention and treatment.
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