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Tips, Information, and Insights from the WebMD Fibromyalgia Community

WebMD Fibromyalgia Community: Short-Term Memory Problems

One of the biggest challenges facing many people with fibromyalgia is -- wait -- what was I going to say?

Short-term memory problems can be embarrassing, frightening, and even dangerous for people with fibromyalgia. One community member asks for help as she’s noticed her memory deteriorating. “I have had two experiences in the last week where I couldn't remember what the inside of my house looks like!” she laments.

A chorus of replies quickly tells her that she’s not alone. One big contributor to memory problems can be anxiety, says one person. She recommends using meditation and relaxation techniques to combat anxiety -- and in turn, improve memory. Another woman notes that research has proven that stress can impact your short-term memory. “The good thing is, when you relax again, your ability to think logically comes back,” she says.

The “can’t find a word” problem is a big issue for many people in this discussion. “It's a frequent thing for me -- very embarrassing,” says one person. Others describe challenges like being unable to finish school because they can’t remember what they’ve read.

Several people say that their memory and cognition weren’t affected during their early years with fibromyalgia, but as time passes, their ability to remember continues to get worse.

One woman suggests using hypnosis and meditation to help sharpen concentration skills. She also recommends working word puzzles, brain teasers, reading, and playing computer games to stimulate the ability to concentrate. “Anything to keep me thinking!” she says. Since she frequently forgets what she needs to do, she writes down not only what’s on her to-do list for the next day, but even for the next hour.

Mark Pellegrino, MD, reassures community members that the brains of people with fibromyalgia are not aging faster, and that these symptoms are not necessarily a sign of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. “In fibro, our brain networking and intra-communication abilities are slowed/impaired, resulting in delayed thoughts or ‘timing-out' of our thoughts,” he explains. “But the memories are still there, even if it takes us a while to access them. Our brains are like my computer: sometimes works great, sometimes verrrrrrry sloooooooow!”

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