If you are a woman between the ages of 45 and 55 and have been dealing with sleepless nights, sweats, extreme fatigue, muscle aches and soreness, memory loss, headaches, mood changes, depression or anxiety then you fit the bill 100% for menopause and 100% for fibromyalgia. Or, if you are like many women in this age bracket, you’re dealing with a double-header – both menopause and fibromyalgia. How can this be? Doesn’t life have enough going on?
Unfortunately, it’s true. The statistics for fibromyalgia clearly indicate the majority of victims are women and of those women, the majority of them are in the later childbearing years to post-childbearing years (try 90%). And, to top things off, it is hard to tell which comes first, fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) or menopause, because they can arrive at about the same time. As a matter of fact, many women who are finally diagnosed with FMS are just entering menopause.
FMS Symptoms are Difficult to Diagnose
Fibromyalgia syndrome is difficult to diagnose because x-rays, blood tests, and biopsies often show no prevalent evidence to support the person’s complaints. However, in recent years the use of thermographs, devices that test and measure the heat produced by areas of the body, has helped with diagnosing FMS. Research studies show that people with FMS have decreased blood flow and decreased skin temperatures in areas of tenderness. Unlike rheumatic conditions that generate swelling at joints and inflammation of body tissues, fibromyalgia does not cause joint deformity nor does it cause damage to internal organs. These factors have made diagnosis challenging and frustrating for people who suffer with the syndrome. Studies now indicate that fibromyalgia is a central nervous system disorder, which explains a lot of the symptoms that are neurological, such as sight problems and multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome (MCSS).
Symptoms of FMS are Like Symptoms of Menopause
Menopause is that time in a woman’s life when estrogen levels plummet and already low progesterone levels accompany the sliding estrogen. The hormonal changes in a woman’s body make for myriad symptoms that are remarkably like fibromyalgia. A few of the common symptoms are:
· muscle aches and pains
· mood swings
Estrogen Loss, Menopause, Hypothyroidism and FMS Symptoms
All of this is attributable to the drop in estrogen levels at the onset of menopause and conventional thinking holds that estrogen deficits are directly linked to the onset of FMS symptoms at menopause. However, progesterone drops as well, and has probably been in a deficit for years before menopause. That means that there has been excessive estrogen dominance, which may impair thyroid function and thyroid hormone conversion. Thyroid hormone imbalance presents with many of the same symptoms consistent with menopause and FMS. And the plot thickens …
A high percentage of the 20 million people with hypothyroidism also receive a diagnosis for FMS. Dr. John C. Lowe, Director of Research for the Fibromyalgia Research Foundation, has postulated that FMS and chronic fatigue may actually be unrecognized symptoms of an underactive thyroid condition. His opinion is that certain thyroid hormones may not be converting to active thyroid hormones and without adequate conversion, healthy cell metabolism is non-existent. The bottom line is that he believes metabolic malfunction at the cellular level is the root cause of FMS.
Menopausal Osteoporosis Has Similiar FMS Symptoms
Women in menopause face the added challenge of bone loss, which can lead to osteoporosis. Early studies indicate that women with FMS tend to have lower bone mass when tested with DEXA scans. This bone loss exacerbates pain in muscles and joints. It seems that all things add up to combination that spells discomfort for a woman in mid-life.
The Search Continues for Link Between FMS Symtpoms and Menopause
At this time the correlation between FMS and menopause has not been studied enough to give any concrete data. However, tests are being done to find out how declining levels of estrogen affect the onset of fibromyalgia. There is a suggested link between abnormally low levels of cortisol, the hormone produced by the adrenal glands, and the FMS-menopause link.
In the meantime, treating the symptoms seems to be the best way to deal with it all. HRT and estrogen patches have proven to have little effect on the symptoms of fibromyalgia and menopause when they are concurrent. What appears to work is light exercise and choosing a diet that is free of sugar, carbohydrates like white bread, cakes, cookies, and crackers, preferring one high in vegetables, fish, and lean meats.
Fibromyalgia symptoms are myriad and cause disruption to normal life. Learn more about the various symptoms of fibromyalgia and how to treat them on this site.