Depression and Sexual Problems ‘Significant’ in Fibromyalgia, Study Reports

Depression and Sexual Problems ‘Significant’ in Fibromyalgia, Study Reports

Fibromyalgia is associated with sexual dysfunction, depression, and with abnormal hematological parameters, such as lower serum concentrations of testosterone and lower blood hemoglobin, new research shows.

Findings in the study, “Depression, sexuality and fibromyalgia syndrome: clinical findings and correlation to hematological parameters,” published in the journal Arquivos de Neuro-Psiquiatria, also raise the possibility of “the involvement of immune-inflammatory mediators” in the disease.

Fibromyalgia (FM),characterized by chronic widespread pain and a heightened pain response to pressure, is linked to sexual and reproductive problems in a wide majority of patients,  83.3 percent.

Bruna Alves with the Universidade de São Paulo, Escola de Artes, Ciências e Humanidades in São Paulo, Brasil, and colleagues sought to investigate issues of sexuality and depression in 33 women with FM compared with 19 healthy women (control group), and to correlate the clinical findings to blood parameters.

All the women were evaluated using the Female Sexual Function Index (a measure if sexual function), the Beck Depression Inventory, and the Visual Analogue Scale. In addition, the researchers gathered medical profile data on patients (pain characteristics, clinical exam, comorbidities, and laboratory exams), with blood samples (5 mL) collected for serum analysis of the concentrations of several parameters.

Sexual dysfunction and depression were significantly more prevalent in women with FM compared with control, the researchers found, and that these variables were positively correlated. Compared to healthy women, those with FM also showed lower serum concentrations of testosterone, free T4 (related to thyroid gland function), antinuclear factor (to evaluate autoimmune disease), lower blood hemoglobin and hematocrit (the ratio of the volume of red blood cells to the total blood volume).

“This study showed a significant association between sexual dysfunction and depression in FM patients. Sexual dysfunction can interfere in the quality of life and aggravate FM symptoms and depression, a frequent comorbidity of FM,” the researchers wrote.

In addition, the researchers suggested their findings “show evidence of inflammatory activity in FM patients,” a possibility that “needs further investigation to understand the role of these findings in the pathophysiological mechanisms of this disease and in its comorbidities.”