People with fibromyalgia can have difficulty getting a definitive diagnosis and finding an effective treatment plan. For many patients, the condition involves a confounding array of symptoms, including chronic pain, fatigue, sleep disturbance and mood disorders. One factor associated with fibromyalgia symptoms is a patient's weight, according to a Mayo Clinic study published this month in Arthritis Care & Research.
"We see an association between body mass index with symptom severity and quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia," says study author Terry Oh, MD, of Mayo Clinic's Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.
"This was the first study to look at distinct groups of obese patients and determine how weight correlates with levels of symptoms and quality of life."
The study assessed body mass index (BMI) in 888 fibromyalgia patients seen at the Mayo Clinic Fibromyalgia Treatment Programme in Rochester. Obesity (BMI greater than 29) was common in about half of the patients, and one-fourth were severely obese (BMI greater than 35). All patients studied completed questionnaires describing their symptoms and ability to function. Symptom severity was more pronounced as obesity increased. Overall, groups of patients with greater BMI reported more severe fibromyalgia-related symptoms and lower quality of life. Severely obese patients reported significantly higher pain scores than non-obese and overweight patients.
Nearly 5 per cent of Americans have fibromyalgia. Although causal relationship is not clear between obesity and fibromyalgia, a higher rate of obesity in those who have fibromyalgia may be caused by a cycle of pain and physical inactivity. Chronic pain and excessive weight may lead to disability and poorer life and increased disability.
"BMI has already been singled out as an independent risk factor for fibromyalgia," Dr Oh says. "Our results underscore the importance of incorporating weight management strategies in treatment programmes for fibromyalgia patients."
Other study authors include Chul-Hyun Kim, MD, of Mayo Clinic and Kyungpook National University, Daegu, South Korea; Connie Luedtke, Ann Vincent, M.B.B.S., M.D., and Jeffrey Thompson, M.D., all of Mayo Clinic.