Fibromyalgia: Profile of Fibromyalgia Patients

Recently, there have been a number of useful clinical studies to understand the profile of fibromyalgia patients. In a 1986 study that compared fibromyalgia patients with a control group, fibromyalgia patients were found to be in general better educated, wealthier, and more likely to be married. Additionally, they had greater use of the health care system, averaging 13 health care visits per year and 3 to 4 times the number of lifetime hospitalizations 13.

The average fibromyalgia patient profile comprises:

  • Gender – 80% to 90% female
  • Average age – approximately 45 years old
  • Average time from onset to diagnosis – 5 to 8 years9

The incidence of fibromyalgia patients has not been found to be different between ethnic groups 9. At least one study has suggested a possible autosomal (chromosome) dominant inheritance pattern to fibromyalgia 18.

Fibromyalgia and children:
Fibromyalgia may occur at any age, even in childhood, and the principal symptoms are the same. In fact, one study found that 25% of patients report that their symptoms started before the age of fifteen years old 16.

When compared to adults, juveniles with fibromyalgia more commonly report subjective swelling, ankle pain and exacerbation by overactivity. In contrast, they have less frequent associated low back pain, hand pain, and changes in symptoms associated with anxiety or weather 17.

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Fibromyalgia and older patients (over 60):
The development of fibromyalgia in older patients is thought to be uncommon, but has not been extensively studied.

In one small study, 31 patients with onset after the age of 60 years were compared with 63 patients with onset before 60 years. Common characteristic features were the same, although elderly patients were likely to complain of functional headaches, anxiety, tension, and symptom aggravation by other changes (e.g. activity). Notably, nearly 40% of the patients in the study had been misdiagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis or polymyalgia rheumatica (an inflammatory condition) and had been treated with at least one course of oral steroids.