Elevated anxiety and depression may be two symptoms that could partially explain why fibromyalgia patients who also have asthma have poorer control of their disease than asthmatics without fibromyalgia, according to a study by the Doctor Peset University Hospital in Spain.
The findings, published in the journal, Current Medical Research and Opinion, suggested that it might be helpful to include interventions such as breathing retraining programs in multidisciplinary treatments for asthma patients with fibromyalgia.
The study, “Fibromyalgia as a cause of uncontrolled asthma: a case-controlled multicenter study,” recruited 56 patients with both fibromyalgia and asthma and 36 asthma patients without fibromyalgia as a control group. All patients were women.
Researchers had previously noted in clinical practice that fibromyalgia patients appeared to have a poorer control of asthma, and the study aimed at examining the validity of these observations.
The two study groups were similar in a range of characteristics, including age, weight, and number of smokers.
Researchers found that certain health issues, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, anxiety, and depression, were more often seen in patients who had both fibromyalgia and asthma. Most of these patients had been diagnosed with asthma before receiving a fibromyalgia diagnosis.
One important observation was that the severity of asthma was similar in the two groups, which also were prescribed the same types of drugs to manage the disease.
Although fibromyalgia patients were found to have had more asthma exacerbation within the last year (43% in the fibromyalgia group compared to 34% in the non-fibromyalgia group), researchers found this difference to be statistically insignificant.
Hospitalization rates also did not statistically vary significantly. Of the fibromyalgia group, 38% reported emergency room visits due to asthma attacks compared to 34% without fibromyalgia, while 14% of fibromyalgia patients reported hospitalization due to worsening asthma compared to 9% of patients without fibromyalgia.
While the severity of asthma was similar in the two groups, those with fibromyalgia scored lower on an asthma control test, indicating a poorer control of their disease.
They also had worse disease-related quality of life (measured by the Mini Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire), hyperventilated more, and had higher levels of anxiety and depression.
Although both groups had similar results when researchers tested their lung function, patients with fibromyalgia and asthma perceived their shortness of breath (dyspnea) to be worse compared to patients without fibromyalgia.
These factors, the researchers said, might contribute to poorer disease control among patients with both asthma and fibromyalgia.