Fibromyalgia syndrome affects more than 5 million Americans; one in six of whom are under the age of 18. Fibromyalgia can have a major impact on a child’s life, as fibromyalgia symptoms such as pain and sleep problems can affect a child’s health and quality of life. However, fibromyalgia studies have found that children with this condition show promising results when coping with the disease. Early diagnosis of the symptoms of fibromyalgia can help a child get on track in handling this illness.
Diagnosing Fibromyalgia in Children
Like adults, it can be difficult to diagnose fibromyalgia in children, as symptoms of this condition are often mistaken for signs of other diseases.
Girls are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than boys. Symptoms of fibromyalgia generally start during puberty, or between the ages of 11 and 15.
One common symptom to look for when trying to determine if your child has fibromyalgia is whether or not she is experiencing sleep problems. Your child may report having trouble falling asleep or feel that they have not adequate sleep most days of the week. These children are at particular risk for developing fibromyalgia syndrome.
Children with parents who have fibromyalgia are also more likely to develop the condition, as fibromyalgia has a genetic component.
In addition, children who catch colds easily, feel constantly fatigued or report not feeling well on a regular or prolonged basis may also have fibro.
Pain, a common fibromyalgia symptom, may be confused in children with ‘growing pains’. If your child reports feeling excessive or persistent pain, you should consult your doctor to check for fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia Treatment for Children
The treatment of fibromyalgia in children is similar to that of adults. However, studies have shown that the condition of children with fibromyalgia improves more quickly compared to that of adults with the condition and in some cases, children can even outgrow it. As such, it can be easier for a child to cope with the effects of having fibromyalgia syndrome.
Fibromyalgia treatment options for children include the following elements: education, therapy, medication, exercise and diet.
Education is an important component of fibromyalgia treatment for both you and your child and can help you both understand this illness. Therapy can also be an integral part of your child’s treatment by providing him with an outlet through which to express his questions and fears about the illness.
Medication is also central to treating a child with fibromyalgia syndrome. Muscle relaxants, such as Cyclobenzaprine can improve the quality of your child’s sleep, while anti-depressants such as Elavil can help to minimize fibromyalgia pain and also improve sleep.
Mild exercise, such as swimming, walking, stretching and biking can help improve your child’s condition, as can a modified diet that is healthy and well-balanced.
Tips for Parents of Children with Fibromyalgia
If your child has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, follow these guidelines to help your child cope with adjusting to this illness and with their treatment:
- talk with your child. Speak to your child in an open but age-appropriate way about fibromyalgia. Ask your doctor for pamphlets or brochures and educate yourself on this condition to help your child adjust and stay positive
- discuss the condition with your family. While it is not always necessary to make your child’s condition known to everyone in the family, speaking about the condition in an open way with close relatives and friends reduces any feelings of shame or inadequacy your child may feel about having this condition. It is also a good way to develop a support network for your yourself and your child.
- adjust your child’s schedule to fit her new lifestyle. Many children with fibromyalgia are high achievers who take on a lot of academic and extra-curricular duties. Reduce the amount of stress in your child’s life by reducing any extra-curricular activities which she feels are overwhelming; talk with your child about which activities she does not enjoy and help to eliminate these so that she can focus on school and not feel overwhelmed.
- join a support group. A support group can help your child and your family adjust to fibromyalgia. Joining such a group will help you see that your child is not alone and that it is possible for your child to live a fulfilling life with fibromyalgia.