Young and middle-aged fibromyalgia patients report worse symptoms and a poorer quality of life than older patients, according to a new Mayo Clinic studythat suggests the disorder plays out differently among different age groups.
The research is being presented at the American College of Rheumatology’s annual meeting in San Diego.
Fibromyalgia most often strikes women, and is characterized by deep tissue pain, fatigue, insomnia, memory and mood issues. About 5 million Americans suffer from the disorder.
Researchers studied nearly 1,000 fibromyalgia patients and divided them into three age groups: those 39 or younger, those 40 to 59, and those 60 or older.
“Among the three age groups of young, middle-aged and older, symptom severity and quality of life differs,” says senior author Terry Oh, MD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Although the younger and middle-aged patients had a shorter duration of fibromyalgia symptoms than older ones, the symptoms were more severe and had a bigger impact on their lives. That was surprising, because quality of life and physical health are considered to be negatively associated with old age, Dr. Oh said.
Jen Bond, who did not participate in the study, was diagnosed with fibromyalgia when she was 16-years old. She told National Pain Report her persistent leg pain was first thought of as “growing pains” until a rheumatologist diagnosed fibromyalgia in 2005.
“I hate having this illness. I had to be homeschooled my last two years of high school because my body couldn’t cope with the rigorous schedule of a normal school day. I have lost so many talents and skills because of this illness,” said Bond, adding that she can no longer play the piano or violin, and had to drop out of college because she couldn’t keep up with her assignments.
“This illness has robbed me of my confidence and self-esteem. I am now 24, still living with my parents, and unemployed. I have no idea what to do with my life because I can’t work and I don’t qualify for SSI (disability).”
Another fibromyalgia sufferer still in her teens says having the disorder at such a young age has given her “a horrible outlook on life.”
“I have dealt with these symptoms for 3 years now, and I am only 18. It has made college impossible,” she wrote to National Pain Report.
“I used to enjoy walks, and now I enjoy when I can simply get out of bed without losing my breath or falling. No one understands the pain, because it’s not something visible or widely known. Therefore, no one really cares. I’m afraid to think about how long I have left in me until I can’t do college or a career anymore. We need a cure NOW!!!!”
The Mayo Clinic researchers say women of all ages in the study had a lower quality of life compared to the general population, but the younger fibromyalgia patients had the lowest scores for mental and physical health. They recommend further studies on the impact of fibromyalgia on different age groups.