An analysis of data from more than 3.5 million people showed that fibromyalgia is more common in patients with certain diseases such as type 2 diabetes and Behcet syndrome than in the general population overall.
The study, “Prevalence of fibromyalgia in general population and patients, a systematic review and meta-analysis,” was recently published in the journal Rheumatology International.
The study’s goal was to determine the occurrence of fibromyalgia in the general population worldwide. The researchers pooled statistical information from 65 studies, which included 3,609,810 people.
Most of the studies included in the analysis used the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria in assigning a diagnosis of fibromyalgia (namely generalized pain for at least three months with 11 out of 18 tender points during physical examination).
In the general population, the study found that 1.78% of people have fibromyalgia, especially women — researchers found that 3.98% of women suffer from the disease while 0.01% of the men analyzed do. There were no significant differences in the rates of fibromyalgia in different regions of the globe.
Fibromyalgia was, however, found to be more common in people with some medical conditions in specific studies. Fibromyalgia was seen in 15.2% of patients in internal medicine and rheumatology clinics, leading the authors to propose that patients referred to those clinics need more investigation and consideration regarding a possible fibromyalgia diagnosis.
Higher rates of fibromyalgia were also seen in patients with type 2 diabetes (14.8%), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS; 12.9%), and patients on hemodialysis — a method of removing waste from the blood (6.3%).
In addition, 80% of patients suffering from Behcet syndrome had fibromyalgia. Behcet syndrome is a rare disorder involving vasculitis, or inflammation of the blood vessels; in Behcet syndrome, smaller blood vessels are involved.
“Our study showed that [the] prevalence of fibromyalgia in [the] general population is considerably lower than that among populations with specific disorders,” and is more common in women, researchers wrote.
Compared to the general population, it is important to investigate fibromyalgia among people with specific diseases. “In addition, future studies should apply more accurate diagnostic criteria and represent the exact sampling tools and characteristics of the study population,” the authors concluded.