Fibromyalgia Diagnosis in Seniors a Common Occurrence

By: Jody Smith

Fibromyalgia is a condition that is only recently gaining acknowledgement and there may be some confusion in understanding just what this condition is all about. It has finally been recognized as a valid chronic disorder, and a fairly common one at that. Fibromyalgia brings with it pain and tenderness that is widespread.

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website, the name is derived from the Latin "fibro" (fibrous tissue), "myo" (muscle) and "algia" (pain). A diagnosis of fibromyalgia is now second only to arthritis in the rheumatologist office. In the past, people with fibromyalgia, especially seniors, were often misdiagnosed as having arthritis.

Research comparing 31 participants who developed fibromyalgia after age 60, with 63 seniors who had fibromyalgia before 60 years of age. It was found that 40 percent of those who developed fibromyalgia after they turned 60 were wrongly diagnosed as having polymyalgia rheumatica or rheumatoid arthritis.

Patients over 60 years of age with fibromyalgia may have different kinds of symptoms than their younger counterparts. Older sufferers of fibromyalgia are more likely to have extreme fatigue and swelling in soft tissue.

They are also more vulnerable to depression that is related to fibromyalgia. Anxiety, headaches and tension were also cited as being more common among older patients. Their symptoms are more likely to worsen due to other factors, like being physically active.

Fibromyalgia also tends to be different for each individual that deals with it, which makes a proper diagnosis that much more elusive.

Despite the frequence of fibromyalgia being misdiagnosed as arthritis, it is not related to arthritis at all. Unlike arthritis, fibromyalgia does not inflict damage to tissue like muscles, or joints. Neither does it cause inflammation as arthritis does. 

Fibromyalgia is similar to arthritis, however, in that it affects soft tissues and joints, and is extremely painful. It is considered to be a rheumatic condition, like arthritis.

Symptoms of fibromyalgia include cognitive dysfunction, also known as fibro fog. Fibromyalgia is associated with pain and fatigue to the point that it can be difficult for the sufferer to perform day-to-day functions.

Sleep may be disrupted and unrestful. Stiffness is common in the mornings, decreasing somewhat as the day wears on.

Other symptoms are headache, irritable bowel syndrome, restless leg syndrome, and numbness or tingling in arms and legs, hands and feet. The fibromyalgia sufferer may be extra-sensitive to temperature, bright or flashing lights and loud noises

The American College of Rheumatology has detailed criteria for diagnosing fibromyalgia which includes tenderness on 11 out of 18 pressure points, as well as pain that is widespread and has been present for three months or more.

If you think you may have fibromyalgia, see a doctor who has training in this condition.




Fibromyalgia: Often undiagnosed in seniors

 Fibromyalgia Syndrome in Seniors: Fibromyalgia Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment of Fibromyalgia in Elderly Patients

 Questions and Answers about Fibromyalgia