While an accurate number is hard to gauge, an estimated 75 to 90% of fibromyalgia sufferers are women. In the U.S, this means that somewhere between five and six million fibromyalgia sufferers are women. This may be due to a combination of factors that include hormonal changes and genetics. Because of this, it’s important to look at specific fibromyalgia symptoms in women.
Why do more women have fibromyalgia?
Women in peak childbearing years (20 to 40) are diagnosed with fibromyalgia at a much higher rate than any other segment of the population in the U.S. This has led researchers to study the role hormones might play in the development of this disease. Some hypothesize that an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone may be to blame, pointing to shifts in these hormones as women experience pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause.
Other causes of fibromyalgia in women can include:
- Genetics: Women with a sibling or parent with fibromyalgia are more likely to be diagnosed themselves.
- Viral infection: Viral infections such as the herpes simplex -1 virus, commonly linked to cold sores, have been connected to the development of fibromyalgia.
- Trauma: Physical or emotional trauma also correlates with a rise in the incidence of fibromyalgia.
- Dysfunctional pain processing: Many researchers agree that one of the key causes of fibromyalgia is dysfunction in the central nervous system’s (CNS) pain processing.
Fibromyalgia symptoms in women list
Women experience some symptoms at a greater rate and frequency than men who are diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Women also experience more pain than men but often receive less treatment for it.
The main fibromyalgia symptoms in women that are different that cases in men are:
- Amplified pain, for longer periods of time
- Pain during sex
- Painful menstrual cycle
- Greater feelings of fatigue and depressionMesothelioma Law Firm
- Increased rates of irritable bowel and painful bladder syndrome
- Restless leg syndrome
- Increased overall sensitivity to light, loud noises, smells, and temperature
Challenges for women with fibromyalgia
Women face discrimination to the level of pain medication they’re prescribed as well as the manner in which they are treated when they report pain. The same study also found that:
- Women are more likely than men to have their pain dismissed as psychological
- They are also less likely to be prescribed opioids for pain
- Women feel that that their pain is not taken seriously or believed when they report it
Women process pain differently than men, but discrimination in the doctor’s office when women report their pain is a big hurdle in diagnosis. This lack of understanding of women’s pain plays a big role in the amount of time it takes to even receive a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. The average time for a fibromyalgia diagnosis is two years or more.
Fibromyalgia in women is a debilitating syndrome that affects our mothers, sisters, grandmothers, nieces, and aunts. Because one of the primary causes in women is hormones, it is crucial that researchers focus their efforts on treatment options that are designed for and tested on women. There is an historical research bias against women that affects the efficacy of medications for them. Research needs to recognize that this syndrome is female-focused and actively recruit female study participants for more effective treatments.
What about fibromyalgia symptoms in men?
With fibromyalgia in women being much more prominent, it would be easy to assume that men don’t experience it. They do, and their burden is just as difficult. While fibromyalgia symptoms in men tend to less severe, the assumption that only women suffer from the syndrome can stall diagnosis.
One man with fibromyalgia explains
“It’s a tough deal for a man to have fibromyalgia. One of my best friends doesn’t believe I have it. His wife, who is a doctor, told him men can’t get it, that it is in my head. That kind of hurt.”
Men are diagnosed more infrequently with fibromyalgia, but diagnosis does occur. Injury and trauma to the body may be more likely to be the cause of fibromyalgia in men, but there may be a genetic link between mothers with fibromyalgia and their sons.
For men who suffer from fibromyalgia, finding a good support group is just as necessary as it is for women. The National Fibromyalgia Association gives great tips on finding the support you need near you.
What do your fibromyalgia symptoms mean?
There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, but there are treatments that can help reduce these fibromyalgia symptoms. An earlier post on our blog discussed the common fibromyalgia treatments that are in use today for this syndrome. You can also watch our blog for any developments in fibromyalgia research or therapeutic techniques.
However, your best way to beat fibromyalgia starts with a diagnosis. By working with a pain specialist who has experience treating fibromyalgia, you can take the first step in getting your life back. Click the button below to find a pain doctor in your area.