At the recent American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting, held November 14 to 19, 2014 in Boston a team of researchers presented their latest findings concerning fibromyalgia patients. The study presented at the meeting was entitled “Cognitive Symptoms in Fibromyalgia Patients Compared with Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients” and compared mental function between fibromyalgia syndrome patients to Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients.
Fibromyalgia (FM) is a disease caused by abnormalities in the way brain processes pain signals and is characterized by widespread chronic muscle pain associated with symptoms of fatigue and sleep disorder. Additionally, FM patients are extremely sensitive to pressure and are often diagnosed with mental impairments, specifically problems with memory (short and long-term memory, as well as short-term memory consolidation) and concentration. Currently, FM is estimated to affect 5.8 million Americans.
To address the cognitive impairment of FM patients, the researchers at the Rush Medical College, Chicago and colleagues ate other institutions compared the symptoms exhibited between FM patients and patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), a chronic inflammatory disease that mainly affects the joints, causing them to be deformed and painful and ultimately resulting in loss of function. However, RA patients are also affected by a significant burden of cognitive impairment.
The authors analyzed 211 patients, 150 with FM and 61 patients with RA. The cognitive functions of either group were assessed by a questionnaire about symptoms of impaired mental function. The questionnaire outcome was rated from symptoms occurring never (scale 1) to a progressive scaling ending at symptoms occurring all the time (scale 5). Patients with FM symptoms of cognitive impairment were significantly worse, when compared to RA patients. Specifically, the authors outlined the following symptoms as worse in FM patients: “inability to recall known words; inability to write an idea down; mistaking numbers that look similar; inability to retain patterns when adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing; distraction by background noises; difficulty following directions; trouble following conversations; becoming disruptive in conversations; misremembering spelling of familiar words; losing place while reading; difficulty expressing thoughts verbally; poor reading comprehension; frustration when speaking; and difficulty concentrating.”
Thus, the study findings report that FM patients exhibit worse symptoms of concentration and cognitive impairment, specifically a state of clouding of consciousness, termed fibrofog.