Most Women with Fibromyalgia Complain of Memory, Concentration Problems, Spanish Study Finds

Most Women with Fibromyalgia Complain of Memory, Concentration Problems, Spanish Study Finds

Most women with fibromyalgia say they have memory problems and can’t concentrate, and a majority also suffer from anxiety and depression, according to a new report from Spain. Its authors recommend analyzing their findings in depth to improve the well-being of women with the disease.

The study, “Cognitive complaints in women with fibromyalgia: Are they due to depression or to objective cognitive dysfunction?” appeared in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder characterized by widespread pain and tenderness, fatigue, restless sleep, stiffness, and mood disturbances. Patients often  have cognitive complaints, but doctors aren’t clear whether this is because of cognitive dysfunction, or if depressive symptoms are to blame.

“Despite the wide acceptance of a high frequency of subjective cognitive complaints in patients with fibromyalgia, very few previous studies have specifically
sought to quantify the extent of such complaints in this population,” according to authors of the study, which took place at Santa Maria Hospital in Lleida, a city in Spain’s northeastern Catalonia region.
Between August 2012 and March 2014, researchers recruited 105 women with fibromyalgia and performed neuropsychological assessments, including measures of attention and executive functions. Participants completed questionnaires on several topics, namely cognitive complaints, anxiety, depression, pain intensity, physical functioning, quality of sleep and quality of life.

Nearly 83 percent of the women had cognitive complaints, 23 percent of them mild and the other 60 percent moderate to severe. In general, depressive symptoms, low working memory ability and low everyday physical functioning were more common in women who reported cognitive complaints. In all, 82 percent of women had symptoms of depression, and 70 percent had “significant levels of anxiety,” while 68.6 percent of the participants had both depression and anxiety.

“The results of this study confirm that subjective cognitive complaints are very frequent in fibromyalgia patients, but that they are not exclusively related to depressive symptoms; functional and objective cognitive dysfunction could also be involved in their manifestation,” researchers wrote. They also urged doctors to “not minimize” cognitive complaints by their patients.

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