Who Gets Fibromyalgia?

Are You at Risk for Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia currently affects over six million people in the United States and millions more worldwide. It causes chronic pain and debilitating fatigue, along with a host of other symptoms. Anyone can get fibromyalgia, including men and women, children and the elderly. However, certain people are at greater risk of developing fibromyalgia then others. Many factors seem to be associated with fibromyalgia symptoms. Since no cause of fibromyalgia has yet been determined, a number of these factors could be directly associated with causing the condition. Find out if you are at risk of developing fibromyalgia syndrome.

Gender and Fibromyalgia

Gender seems to play a large role in determining who develops fibromyalgia syndrome. Though both men and women develop the disease, women seem to become affected far more often than men. In fact, between 80% and 90% of those affected by the syndrome are female. It is unknown exactly why the illness seems to affect so many women. Hormones are definitely implicated.

Hormone Levels and Fibromyalgia

There is some speculation that lower levels of serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter, and leads to an increase in pain sensitivity and a lower pain threshold. Serotonin is usually associated with its calming, anxiety-reducing characteristics. Lowered pain thresholds in FMS sufferers may be caused by the fact that the body's natural endorphin painkillers are not as effective as they rely on serotonin to do their job. Interestingly, some studies show that women have approximately seven times less serotonin in the brain.

Another theory suggests that fibromyalgia is caused by biochemical changes in the body perhaps related to hormonal changes. Some FMS sufferers have low levels of human growth hormone, which can contribute to muscle pain.


Age also plays a significant role in determining who will develop fibromyalgia. Most women who develop fibromyalgia do so during their childbearing years. Diagnosis typically takes place between the ages of 20 and 55. However, elderly men and women can also develop the disease. Children may also develop fibromyalgia, but because the symptoms have a very slow onset, it is much more difficult to diagnose.


Genes may contribute to the development of fibromyalgia. Research indicates that women who have a close family member with the syndrome are more likely to develop fibromyalgia themselves. This may be due to a genetic defect passed along at birth.

Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders have been theorized to be one of the root causes of fibromyalgia. Many fibromyalgia sufferers have sleep disorders and, as a result, become very fatigued. If you have been diagnosed with a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, you may be at increased risk for developing fibromyalgia.


If you have been diagnosed with lupus, you are at increased risk of developing fibromyalgia syndrome. Like fibromyalgia, lupus affects mostly women and causes symptoms of pain and fatigue. Up to 30% of lupus sufferers are eventually diagnosed with fibromyalgia.


Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis which causes degeneration of the joints. It is associated with pain and disability. For unknown reasons, people suffering from osteoarthritis are more likely to develop fibromyalgia. Between 10% and 15% of osteoarthritis sufferers also have fibromyalgia.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis which causes severe back pain. It causes inflammation of the joints between the spine and pelvis. People with ankylosing spondylitis are more likely to suffer from fibromyalgia.

Post-traumatic fibromyalgia

Sometimes fibromyalgia develops after there has been a physical trauma - whether a car accident, sports accident, or a serious fall - a typical history begins to emerge. Severe pain in the neck, shoulders and back areas is reported to the doctor. Within a short time of the incident the pain develops and persists. Medical attention, drugs, evaluations and treatments do little to address the pain. Tender points develop and because they follow the pattern associated with the diagnosis of fibromyalgia, it is often concluded that FMS has been a result of the trauma.


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