Researchers at Dicle University and the Yüzüncüyıl University in Turkey recently reported that patients infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) have a higher incidence of fibromyalgia. The study was published in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases and is entitled “Fibromyalgia incidence among patients with hepatitis B infection”.
Fibromyalgia is a medical disorder characterized by a set of symptoms that includes widespread chronic musculoskeletal pain, incapacitating fatigue, stiffness and numbness in certain parts of the body, painful response to pressure, headaches, unrefreshing sleep (poor sleep quality), anxiety or depression and mood alterations. Fibromyalgia can affect people’s ability to conduct simple daily tasks, compromising their quality of life. It is estimated that 5 to 15 million Americans are affected by this disorder, especially women. The causes of fibromyalgia are unclear, but it is thought that genetic, neurophysiological and psychosocial mechanisms are involved.
HBV infection is a potentially life-threatening condition that affects the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease, increasing the patient’s risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer. It has been previously observed that patients infected with HBV have a high incidence of fibromyalgia.
In the study, researchers investigated the incidence of fibromyalgia among HBV patients and the corresponding clinical symptoms. The team analyzed 118 HBV patients (mean age of 36 years) who were divided into three categories: HBV carriers (40 patients), chronic active HBV patients (40 patients) and patients who had been treated with antiretroviral therapy for at least 3 months (38 patients). As controls, 60 age and gender matched healthy individuals were also assessed.
Researchers found that the serum levels of the liver enzymes aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) were significantly higher in HBV patients in comparison to the control group suggesting liver damage. Fibromyalgia incidence, widespread pain, joint pain (arthralgia), sleep disturbance, anxiety, fatigue and morning stiffness were also found to be significantly greater in HBV patients when compared to the control group.
Regarding the three HBV categories in the cohort, there was no difference in AST and ALT levels, fibromyalgia incidence, widespread pain, arthralgia, sleep disturbance and anxiety. The mean body mass index was, however, significantly higher in the HBV carrier group.
The research team concluded that fibromyalgia has indeed a higher incidence among HBV patients and suggests that HBV could be considered an independent predictor of the disorder. The team found no differences in fibromyalgia incidence among the three HBV subgroups considered in the study.