Results from a recent study published in the journal Pedriatrics analyzed the chronic course of juvenile-onset fibromyalgia for many adolescents who seek medical care for this chronic condition and the functional, emotional, and social effects that can persist into adulthood.
Chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain in childhood is common, affecting 6% to 7% of school-aged children, and often encountered in pediatric primary care. For a proportion of patients, typically adolescent females, symptoms that are firstly seen by physicians and parents as temporary “growing pains” may be persistent (beyond 3 months), accompanied by fatigue, headaches, and sleep difficulties, and be medically unexplainable. These teenagers often report high levels of emotional distress, physical impairment and school absences.
Juvenile-onset fibromyalgia (JFM) is now increasingly recognized as a pain syndrome. Although there has been some progress in the recognition and clinical management of JFM, very little is known about long-term prognosis. Physicians often reassure their patients that they will likely “outgrow” symptoms.
In the study entitled “Long-Term Outcomes of Adolescents With Juvenile-Onset Fibromyalgia in Early Adulthood”, Lesley M. Arnold, MD from the Divisions of a Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology and Rheumatology, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, in Cincinnati, Ohio conducted a prospective longitudinal analysis for 6 years looking at the long-term physical and psychosocial outcomes of adolescents with juvenile-onset fibromyalgia (JFM) (n=94), in comparison to healthy control subjects (n=33), into early adulthood. All participants completed online measures of demographic characteristics, pain, physical functioning, mood symptoms, and health care utilization and a standard in-person tender-point examination.
The results revealed that compared to the healthy control subjects, patients with JFM had significantly higher pain, poorer physical function, greater anxiety and depressive symptoms, and more medical visits. The researchers also found that the majority of JFM patients (80%) continued to experience fibromyalgia symptoms into early adulthood, and 51.1% of the JFM sample met American College of Rheumatology criteria for adult fibromyalgia at follow-up. Compared to the healthy control subjects, patients with JFM were more likely to be married and less likely to obtain a college education.
According to researchers, these results shed more light on the variability of how JFM symptoms affect youth and underscores the need further studies into early risk and resilience factors that might explain why some patients with JFM do better or worse than others during the crucial transition from adolescence to adulthood.