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19 Alarming Fibromyalgia Statistics and Facts

written by / June 16, 2020

Do you have occasional pain in specific parts of the body? If, in addition to this, you have unrefreshing sleep and feel tired—you might be suffering from fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia statistics attest that this condition is more widely spread than previously thought, affecting the younger population as well as the old.

First mentioned in the mid-1970s, this condition is still the subject of a heated debate on whether or not it should be classified as an actual disease since its causes are still relatively unknown.

So, even though fibromyalgia patients have a lot of co-occurring diseases and symptoms such as migraines, sleep apnea, IBS, rhinitis, and others, they are often socially stigmatized and discredited by their physicians as depressive. 

To get a better understanding of this elusive disease, take a look at the top ten stats below.

Top 10 Fascinating Fibromyalgia Facts and Statistics

  • 2.7% of the world’s population has fibromyalgia.
  • 24.6% of fibromyalgia sufferers see over 6 health care professionals before reaching their diagnosis.
  • 7% of newly diagnosed fibromyalgia patients are teenagers aged 13–15.
  • 74% of fibromyalgia patients spend more than $100 per month on OTC medications.
  • Sleep quality improved in 93% of fibromyalgia patients in Israel that used medical cannabis.
  • Testosterone improves chronic pain in 55% of transgender people. 
  • Sleep apnea incidence and fibromyalgia have a high correlation.
  • Fibromyalgia patients are 10 times more likely to commit suicide.
  • Fibromyalgia can be the underlying cause of non-allergic rhinitis.
  • Fibromyalgia patients have more difficulties keeping their balance and avoiding falls than arthritis patients.

The Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia—Statistics

Fibromyalgia Statistics

1. 2.7% of the World’s population has fibromyalgia.

Global statistics from 2013 show that 2.7% of the global population suffers from fibromyalgia. The obtained data for this year revealed that Greece had the lowest prevalence rate (0.4%), whilst Tunisia had the highest (9.3%).

In 2013, the estimated worldwide incidence rate of fibromyalgia was highest in the regions of the Americas (3.1%). What’s more, fibromyalgia was diagnosed in 2.5% of Europeans, and in 1.7% of the population in Asia, fibromyalgia global statistics reveal.

(Link Springer)

2. 24.6% of fibromyalgia patients see more than six health care professionals before reaching their diagnosis.

An internet study in which 2,596 fibromyalgia patients took part exposed that almost one-quarter of the participants visited more than six health care providers to reach their fibromyalgia diagnosis. The biggest share (46%) stated that they consulted between three and six health care providers before finally being diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Most of the patients (45.8%) obtained fibromyalgia information from their family physicians. In 42.4% of cases, rheumatologists were the ones posing the diagnosis.

(BioMedCentral)

3. Fibromyalgia prevalence statistics show that two-thirds of cases with fibromyalgia are misdiagnosed.

Recent studies have shown that two-thirds of people diagnosed with fibromyalgia have another underlying condition.

A correct diagnosis of fibromyalgia can be attained only when the patient tests negative for all overlapping fibromyalgia symptoms. These are many, including RA, MS, hypothyroidism, anemia, autoimmune diseases of the connective tissue, small-fiber polyneuropathy, and others. In a study involving 497 patients at a rheumatology clinic, 50% were not diagnosed with fibromyalgia (even though they displayed all the symptoms), whereas 11.4% were wrongly diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

(Integrative Practitioner, Science Daily)

4. Facts about fibromyalgia show that almost 28% of physicians who treat fibromyalgia patients do not take it is a legitimate disease.

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that manifests with debilitating pain occurring in 2–7% of the US population. Still, symptoms such as cognitive difficulties, sleep disturbances, fatigue, IBS, and others are disregarded as stress by many health care practitioners or attributed to mood disorders. Moreover, there are a lot of skeptics due to the fact that, on a molecular level, there is no defining fibromyalgia test that determines the diagnosis. An internet study showed that 27.8% of physicians discredited patients with fibromyalgia as per the patient’s impression.

(BioMedCentral)

5. Interesting facts about fibromyalgia state that 7% of newly diagnosed fibromyalgia patients are teenagers aged 13–15.

Fibromyalgia data in the US shows that approximately 0.5% of adult men and 4% of adult women have fibromyalgia. For a long time, it was believed that fibromyalgia can only affect the older population, however, the data obtained by a 2007 study showed that 7% of new fibromyalgia cases in rheumatology centers are teenagers between 13–15 years of age. The signs of fibromyalgia among the younger population are characterized as juvenile primary fibromyalgia syndrome (JPFS).

(NFA)

Treatment of Fibromyalgia Statistics

6. 74% of fibromyalgia patients spend more than $100 per month on OTC medications, statistics show.

Although 70.4% of over 2,500 surveyed fibromyalgia patients in 2005 had medical insurance, 74% of them had monthly expenditures between $100 and $500 for over-the-counter fibromyalgia medication. The most popular OTC medication was the anti-inflammatory drug, acetaminophen, used by 96% of the patients. In addition, 61% of surveyees also said that their monthly expenditure on prescription medication ranges between $100 to $500.

(BioMedCentral)

7. More than 12 medical visits are made annually by 13% of the entire fibromyalgia population, statistics show.

A 2005 internet study in which 75% of participants were diagnosed with fibromyalgia for 4 years or more revealed that 96% of them made at least one visit to their healthcare provider each year. For 13% of them, these visits were on a monthly basis (12 or more per year), 14% reported 9 to 12 visits, and 23% reported 5 to 8 visits over the last year. Nevertheless, the biggest percentage of participants (44%) consulted with their healthcare provider between 1 and 4 times during the same period.

(BioMedCentral)

8. Fibromyalgia statistics reveal that 45% of Canadian physicians believe that the legalization of cannabis will result in fewer visits from fibromyalgia patients. 

Cannabis was proven to be beneficial for the treatment of many chronic pain conditions. In 2018, statistics showed that as much as 23% of Canadian physicians believe that the legalization of cannabis will improve the management of fibromyalgia, even though they do not support it. Also, 45% of physicians in favor of marijuana legalization think that cannabis will ease fibromyalgia symptoms, resulting in fewer visits from patients afflicted by it.

(Statista)

9. Fibromyalgia disability statistics in Israel show that sleep quality improved in 93% of fibromyalgia patients that used medical cannabis.

An Internet-based questionnaire conducted in Israel in 2018 examining the effects of cannabis as a treatment for fibromyalgia symptoms, including pain, sleep disturbances, and depression, showed fairly positive results. 84% of responders had a monthly intake of cannabis in the range of 31.4 grams, even though only 44% of them were prescribed medicinal cannabis. A staggering 94% of those with regular cannabis consumption reported pain relief, 93% reported having better sleep quality, and 87% said that cannabis helped them feel more positive overall.

(Hindawi)

10. Fibromyalgia stats suggest that testosterone lessens chronic pain in 55% of transgender people. 

A study involving transgender subjects suffering from chronic pain in the form of headaches and musculoskeletal pain found that their pain-reporting was interchangeable with the high levels of sex hormones. For example, more than half (55%) of the female-to-male transgender individuals reported lower levels of pain when they started their testosterone administration. Interestingly, the male-to-female transgender individuals had the opposite effect, with 18% reporting intensifying pain after their estrogen administration, and a whopping 23% reporting an onset of chronic pain.

(Ovid, NCBI) 

Fibromyalgia Disability Statistics

11. Fibromyalgia patients have a higher chance of becoming overweight than their healthy counterparts.

A study that assessed the Body Mass Index (BMI) of 888 female patients with fibromyalgia in 2013 found that the perceived pain levels highly correlated with higher values of BMI. Furthermore, their response to fibromyalgia treatment was significantly lower. Another study revealed that fibromyalgia patients tended to be moderately overweight. A higher sugar intake (43 g per day) in these patients was associated with comfort eating, and a sedentary lifestyle was associated with the symptoms of fatigue and pain.

(IJPMR, NCBI, BioMedCentral)

12. Fibromyalgia and depression stats indicate that more than half of all fibromyalgia patients will experience Major Depressive Disorder at some point.

A recently published meta-analysis suggests that around 25% of fibromyalgia patients suffer from MDD, yet their lifetime incidence of MDD was estimated at 65%. Anxiety and depression are common in patients with fibromyalgia. A recent study shows that anxiety rates among patients with fibromyalgia were almost 3 times higher than those of the control group (87.5% vs 23.6%). Furthermore, the incidence of depression was also 14 times higher (72.5% vs. 5%).

(Psychiatry Advisor, Indian JRH)

13. Fibromyalgia suicide statistics show that these patients are 10 times more likely to commit suicide.

Danish researchers found an elevated risk of suicide in women suffering from fibromyalgia compared to that of the general population. The research involving 1,270 female patients revealed that 8 women in total committed suicide after 4 years of follow-up, while the average annual suicide rate for Danish women was 5–6 per 100,000 population. Interestingly, these patients didn’t take any antidepressants and were not diagnosed with a mood disorder or any other psychiatric illness prior to the fibromyalgia diagnosis. Researchers believe that these suicide rates are purely due to pain intensity.

(Reuters)

14. Fibromyalgia and arthritis statistics show that fibromyalgia patients have increased difficulties keeping their balance and avoiding falls than arthritis patients.

Balance keeping in fibromyalgia patients is impaired due to dizziness. In a study that involved equal parts of patients with RA, fibromyalgia, and healthy subjects it was discovered that patients with fibromyalgia fall more often than RA and healthy individuals. In another study where patients underwent the Balance Evaluation Systems Test, it was revealed that the number of falls during the six-month period corresponded to a ratio of 37:6 between people with fibromyalgia symptoms vs. healthy individuals.

(Fibromyalgia News Today, NCBI)

15. Fibromyalgia statistics show that fibromyalgia patients have higher rates of ADHD and impulsivity.

In a recent study, it was found that both childhood and adult ADHD was more frequent in patients with fibromyalgia with an incidence rate of 29.5% and 7.4%, respectively. Researchers also found a link between impulsivity and fibromyalgia, proving once again that fibromyalgia is a part of the affective spectrum disorders (ASDs) family. Furthermore, it was revealed that 66% of people that were diagnosed with ADHD did not outgrow it in adulthood.

(NCBI)

Fibromyalgia—Correlating Diseases Statistics

16. Fibromyalgia statistics in 2019 reveal that 20–36% of patients with migraines also suffer from fibromyalgia.

In a study published in 2019, scientists found a 2-way association between migraines and fibromyalgia; meaning, both are comorbidities and represent chronic pain disorders that are hard to treat.

In addition, 45–80% of fibromyalgia sufferers also have a migraine, and 20–36% of patients that have migraines also have fibromyalgia. Following this study, after the overall adjustments, it was revealed that fibromyalgia had a 1.57 times greater incidence rate in patients diagnosed with migraines than in healthy individuals. Furthermore, the incidence rates of both diseases increased with age.

(AJMC)

17. Fibromyalgia can be the underlying cause of non-allergic rhinitis, fibromyalgia facts confirm.

Medical literature shows that fibromyalgia patients can exhibit symptoms of rhinitis without the immunologic reaction that is usually associated with an allergic reaction — a condition known as vasomotor or non-allergic rhinitis. A chronically runny nose, post-nasal drip, and congested sinus cavities are frequent symptoms in fibromyalgia but the itching feeling of allergic rhinitis is absent. The stiffness of facial and neck muscles can obstruct drainage and cause fluid buildup which is a common cause of these symptoms. In addition, fibromyalgia can trigger a high sensitivity to odors, environmental humidity, and other factors.

(ProHealth)

18. Fibromyalgia statistics show that high levels of the stress hormone cortisol increase chronic pain in women suffering from fibromyalgia.

In a 2015–2017 study involving female fibromyalgia individuals aged 18–65, high cortisol levels induced higher pain levels in all the subjects. This was particularly prominent when the levels of the female hormone progesterone were low, or during the menstruation period. Furthermore, when progesterone levels were high, a 25.6% drop in pain severity was also noted. Low and medium cortisol levels showed no effect in relation to pain symptoms in fibromyalgia.

(NCBI)

19. Sleep apnea incidence statistics on the number of people with fibromyalgia reveals a high correlation.

A 2017 study shows that Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS) is present in at least 50% of the population suffering from fibromyalgia. A polysomnography evaluation showed that only a mild form of OSAS was present in 33% of cases; moderate form in 25% of cases; and severe form in a staggering 42% of cases. The scientist attributed the correlation between fibromyalgia and sleep apnea to symptoms such as daytime sleepiness, fatigue, anxiety, stiffness, and attention deficit disorder, due to the physiological state of hypoxia (low oxygen saturation) it induces.

(NCBI)

Conclusion

Fibromyalgia facts and statistics show that modern research is mostly concerned with finding the causes of this highly debilitating syndrome. Beginning with the diagnosis, this syndrome posed multiple problems to its sufferers over the years. Threatening both physical and mental health, fibromyalgia is classified as an affective spectrum disorder.

Furthermore, evidence shows that fibromyalgia and sleep disorder are closely linked, and poor sleep can imitate symptoms of fibromyalgia in healthy individuals — hence why the main focus of fibromyalgia treatment is placed on providing quality sleep for the affected people. Fibromyalgia statistics reveal that we’re not yet ready to find the cause nor the cure for this syndrome. Still, we’re heading towards that direction at a progressively faster pace.

FAQs

Can fibromyalgia shorten your life?

While fibromyalgia is associated with significant psychological distress, there is currently no evidence supporting the idea that fibromyalgia causes a shorter life span. Although this disorder is not considered as a serious health problem, symptoms such as pain, sleep disturbances, and cognitive difficulties seriously debilitate the quality of life of the affected individuals.

There are a few FDA-approved medications for the treatment of fibromyalgia, yet their effectiveness varies from patient to patient. Fibromyalgia treatment by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) showed good results by providing coping mechanisms and relief for some of the symptoms.

What can be mistaken for fibromyalgia?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disease often associated with fibromyalgia. In fact, chronic pain that is located in the joints and bones is a symptom of this autoimmune disease. Yet, contrary to fibromyalgia, there are simple x-ray or blood tests that prove the inflammation process in RA. If this disorder is not properly treated, it can affect the heart and lungs of the sufferers, shortening their life span. 

Other conditions that mimic fibromyalgia symptoms include hypothyroidism, obstructive sleep apnea, lupus, Lyme disease, anemia, MS, CFS, autoimmune connective tissue disorders, small-fiber polyneuropathy, cancerous diseases, and others.

What are the most severe symptoms of fibromyalgia?

A chronic, widespread musculoskeletal pain that is more intense in some regions of the body is the most serious symptom of fibromyalgia. Consequently, the majority of treatment medication and therapies target fibromyalgia pain. Sleep disturbances such as sleep apnea, insomnia, and overall low-quality sleep are another severe symptom that, in turn, leads to chronic fatigue and cognitive difficulties such as memory problems. According to fibromyalgia statistics, other reported symptoms include frequent headaches and gastro-intestinal manifestations — Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The severity of these problems can also lead to mood swings and depression.

Sources