Individuals living with fibromyalgia face a heightened risk of premature mortality compared to those without this condition, a chronic ailment known for causing enduring pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and mood disorders.
According to a recent meta-analysis of research on fibromyalgia and mortality published on July 10 in the journal RMD Open, the condition is linked to a 27 percent increased risk of premature death from all causes.
Furthermore, the analysis reveals that individuals with fibromyalgia are over three times more likely to succumb to suicide. Fibromyalgia also demonstrates an association with a heightened risk of premature mortality due to accidents and infections.
Codirector of the National Data Bank for Rheumatic Diseases and a clinical professor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Wichita, Frederick Wolfe, MD, who wasn’t involved in the new analysis said, “With respect to suicide, there is more mental illness in those with fibromyalgia.”
“Accidents are thought by some to be a euphemism to avoid saying suicide,” Dr. Wolfe adds.
Fibromyalgia Linked to Increased Risk of Depression
Fibromyalgia, a condition affecting roughly four million adults in the United States, manifests as widespread bodily pain and can lead to issues with sleep, fatigue, as well as emotional and psychological distress, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It is noteworthy that women are twice as likely to develop fibromyalgia as compared to men, and it Is often diagnosed during middle age. While the exact causes of this condition remain unclear, several risk factors have been identified, including autoimmune disorders like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, exposure to stressful or traumatic events or injuries, obesity, and a family history of fibromyalgia.
Living with fibromyalgia often entails greater disability and a reduced quality of life, as reported by the CDC. Individuals with this condition are also more than twice as likely to require hospitalization and are over three times more prone to experiencing major depressive disorder. The CDC further highlights that fibromyalgia carries an increased risk of premature mortality due to accidents and suicide.
Fibromyalgia Tends to Goes Hand-In-Hand with Other Chronic Conditions
Moreover, the study on fibromyalgia and mortality conducted a comprehensive analysis of data from six previously published studies, which collectively encompassed over 188,000 participants. It is crucial to note that these studies were observational in nature, lacking the controlled experimental design necessary to establish causation between fibromyalgia and shortened lifespan.
Nonetheless, this analysis has certain limitations. Smaller studies included in the analysis utilized diverse definitions of fibromyalgia, and many participants living with fibromyalgia also suffered from various other medical conditions that could independently influence their likelihood of premature death. It remains plausible that the elevated mortality risk associated with fibromyalgia in this analysis might be attributable to these other underlying health issues rather than fibromyalgia itself.
In addition, the potential risk of premature mortality related to fibromyalgia may differ based on the types of treatments individuals receive.
Kaleb Michaud, PhD, a professor of rheumatology and immunology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha who was not involved in the analysis, suggests that the manner in which fibromyalgia is managed and treated may impact outcomes.
“Many patients seeking care for their fibromyalgia reach a variety of roadblocks that only add to their health burdens. I also wonder if the mortality risk may be changing over time due to changes in diagnosis and treatment,” Dr. Michaud says.
Being Proactive Helps to Properly Manage Fibromyalgia
On a more optimistic note, Dr. Michaud also shares how it is essential to understand that, with appropriate treatment, the quality of life and longevity of individuals with fibromyalgia can be improved. Such treatments may encompass medications as well as nonpharmacological approaches like regular exercise and prioritizing restful sleep at night. These strategies can contribute significantly to enhancing the well-being of individuals living with fibromyalgia, helping them better manage their condition and overall health.
Dr. Michaud says, “Finding a care team willing and able to help with these treatments may be the first step. The second step is acknowledging that there may be serious consequences for not being proactive in care, as this new analysis highlights.”