What is the Fibromyalgia Syndrome and Who is Affected?

Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is an increasingly recognized chronic pain syndrome which is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal aches, pain and stiffness, soft tissue tenderness, general fatigue and sleep disturbances. The term syndrome indicates that fibromyalgia is probably not an homogenous disease but a group of diseases that have different backgrounds and common or similar manifestations. Fibromyalgia syndrome belongs to the group of rheumatic disorders so called rheumatism of the soft tissue. Fibromyalgia is often misdiagnosed or unrecognized and is and often complicated by mood and anxiety disorders.

The pain is accompanied by hyperesthesia in so called tender points localized in specific sites that include the neck, back, shoulders, pelvic girdle and hands, but any body part can be involved. Fibromyalgia patients experience a range of symptoms of varying intensities that wax and wane over time.

It is believed that from 2 % to 5 % of the whole population suffers from fibromyalgia. Hence from 16 up to as many as 40 million people in the whole world suffer from fibromyalgia. The fibromyalgia prevalence is approx. 2.9% and hence it affects 1.76 million people in UK (read more → data from Fibromyalgia Association UK). Fibromyalgia prevalence in some countries is shown below:

Danmark 0.7 - 1.4 %
Spain 2.4 %
Canada 3.3 %
Germany 3.5 %
United States 2 - 5 %

Fibromyalgia may affect any person at any age, even children. Women are affected approx. 8 times more often than men. The majority of patients are between 35 and 65 years old, also at the age of professional activity. Neuman and Buskila have found strong association of FMS with other rheumatic disorders. According to those investigators a high prevalence of Fibromyalgia has been demonstrated among relatives of patients with FMS. The authors concluded that it may be attributed to genetic and/or environmental factors.

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