Most Teens With Fibromyalgia Have Pain as Adults
Four of five continued to experience symptoms, while half had full-blown disorder, study finds
When compared to healthy young adults their age, the patients who had experienced juvenile fibromyalgia reported significantly higher pain, poorer physical function, greater anxiety and more visits to the doctor.
Dr. Anne Eberhard, a pediatric rheumatologist at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, said these results make sense given the major role that stress plays in fibromyalgia.
"It is not surprising that the symptoms are still seen and persist into early adulthood, where major life decisions are being made," Eberhard said.
The study also found that juvenile fibromyalgia patients were more likely to be married as young adults compared with healthy folks their age, but were less likely to have attended college. About 62 percent had attended some college or obtained a degree, compared with 76 percent of the healthy control group.
While these findings could seem discouraging for juvenile fibromyalgia patients, Eberhard said one can look at the glass as being half-full rather than half-empty.
"Nearly half of the originally diagnosed patients with fibromyalgia were improved to the point that they no longer fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia. Many of the patients in the study with fibromyalgia were attending college and indeed some had married and even given birth," she said.
"This is very encouraging as despite having more pain than the controls, these patients were able to lead a normal, productive life," she added.
Even more encouraging is the fact that fibromyalgia treatment options have improved in recent years, particularly for adults, said Dr. Lucinda Bateman, founder of the Fatigue Consultation Clinic in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved antidepressant and anticonvulsant medications for adult fibromyalgia, and cognitive behavioral therapy -- a type of mental health counseling -- can be useful in helping patients better cope with their pain. Physical activity also has proven effective in controlling symptoms, the study says.
"It doesn't surprise me that many still have the symptoms, but it appears they do have a better chance of moving through it," Bateman said.
The study does emphasize the importance of properly diagnosing juvenile fibromyalgia, Bateman and Kashikar-Zuck said.
"Parents need to be careful about differentiating growing pains with fibromyalgia," Kashikar-Zuck said. "If they see a child who also has chronic muscle pain but also sleeplessness, they should seriously consider whether an evaluation should be done for fibromyalgia."