Neurologic signs common with fibromyalgia
Last Updated: 2009-09-22 13:01:04 -0400 (Reuters Health)
By Michelle Rizzo
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Fibromyalgia isn't
all in your head, new research suggests.
In a study, researchers found that people with
fibromyalgia were more likely than those without
the chronic pain condition to have poor balance,
tingling and weakness in the arms and legs, and
other "neurologic" signs and symptoms.
Fibromyalgia, a debilitating pain syndrome that
affects 2 to 4 percent of the population, is
characterized by chronic pain, fatigue and
difficulty sleeping. It's a somewhat mysterious
condition with no clear-cut cause. Many people
with fibromyalgia have faced the question of whether the condition is real.
The new findings, reported in the latest issue of
Arthritis and Rheumatism, support a growing body
of literature suggesting that the condition is
real and also support the possibility that a
"neuroanatomical" cause may underlie fibromyalgia.
Dr. Nathaniel F. Watson, of the University of
Washington Medicine Sleep Institute at
Harborview, Seattle, and colleagues studied 166
people with fibromyalgia and 66 pain-free controls.
All of them were examined by a neurologist who
was unaware of their disease status. All study
participants also completed a standard questionnaire on neurologic symptoms.
In 27 of 29 neurological categories tested,
significantly more neurologic symptoms were seen
in the fibromyalgia group than in the control
group, Watson and colleagues found.
The greatest differences were found for light
sensitivity, or "photophobia," seen in 70 percent
of fibromyalgia patients but in only 6 percent of
pain-free controls; poor balance, which plagued
63 percent of fibromyalgia patients but only 4
percent of controls; and weakness and tingling in
the arms or legs, seen in more than half of
fibromyalgia patients but in only around 4 percent of controls.
In addition, those with fibromyalgia had greater
dysfunction than controls in certain nerves in
the brain. They also had more "sensory" problems,
motor abnormalities and gait problems.
Within the fibromyalgia group, there were
significant correlations between several
neurologic signs and symptoms. For example,
numbness in any part of the body or tingling in
the arms or legs correlated with neurologic test
findings. Poor balance, poor coordination and
weakness in the arms or legs also correlated with
objective findings on neurologic tests.
These observations, Watson told Reuters Health,
underscore the need for "careful neurological
examinations in all fibromyalgia patients,
particularly those with neurological complaints."
Watson cautioned that this study does not confirm
a neuroanatomical basis for fibromyalgia and that
much more work is necessary before this can be known with certainty.
SOURCE: Arthritis and Rheumatism, September 2009.
Copyright © 2009 Reuters Limited.