Fibromyalgia Complications

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on October 6, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on October 6, 2014

Complications of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia symptoms may come and go but in most cases the disorder does not tend to worsen over time. People who experience the symptoms learn how to cope with the pain the best they can and avoid triggers that bring about flare-ups. However, the pain syndrome can disrupt your life and is often associated with other diseases.

Disability and Lifestyle Disruption

Many fibromyalgia sufferers receive disability benefits because they are unable to work. This is because symptoms like joint pain seriously limit mobility. What’s known as “fibro fog” can make it more difficult for people to focus while on the job.

Even if a patient is able to work, fibromyalgia may reduce productivity. This can lower quality of life. You may not enjoy doing the things you once did. Walking, shopping, visiting with friends, and other activities can become more difficult due to the pain and fatigue of the syndrome.

The pain limits a person’s ability to get around and be as active as they may have been before. This could result in withdrawing and losing the benefits of an active social life. Fibromyalgia flare-ups can be brought on by stress and depression. The isolation can begin a difficult cycle where the pain causes isolation, which causes even more pain.

Related Diseases

There are many health problems known to be more common in people with fibromyalgia than in the general public. It’s not known if fibromyalgia causes these diseases, if they cause fibromyalgia, or if there is some other explanation. However, being aware that they can accompany the pain syndrome can help patients identify symptoms that could mark the onset of another disorder.

The following are more common in people with fibromyalgia:

  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • irritable bowel disorder (IBS)
  • migraines
  • tension headaches
  • depression
  • endometriosis (a female reproductive disorder)
  • lupus (an autoimmune disease)
  • osteoarthritis
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • restless leg syndrome (RLS)

The onset of these other afflictions sometime comes after the fibromyalgia symptoms. Treating the initial symptoms may help you maintain your health and avoid these additional problems.

Activities that will not only help treat the pain of fibromyalgia, but can improve your overall health include:

  • stress reduction
  • adequate sleep
  • a healthy diet
  • regular moderate exercise

Depression

Many people with fibromyalgia also suffer from depression. There are several factors that could play a role in this complication. Some think the brain chemicals involved in the syndrome are also involved in triggering depression. If so, this means one will always likely accompany the other. The isolation and pain that often go with this disorder can no doubt be depressing. Some doctors still hold the belief that this syndrome isn’t a real illness and that it’s just a combination of several symptoms brought on by stress. Being made to feel like the pain is “all in your head” can lead to depression.

Therapy generally helps people cope with this complication. One-on-one sessions or support groups can help you understand what’s going on and how your thoughts may affect your health. Such support can also improve feelings of solitude.

Outlook

There is no cure for fibromyalgia. Although sometimes the pain improves gradually over time, in most cases you simply learn to manage it. Most patients find the greatest improvement in finding a good symptom management plan. This could include a combination of medications and alternative treatments. Therapy can also teach you how to cope with the psychological effects of this disorder. 

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