Menopause and Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia Symptoms Are More Severe in Post-Menopausal Women

It's known that most fibromyalgia patients, some 85%-90% are women, but it's less well known that a lot of them are menopausal. It makes sense though, if you consider that most women diagnosed with the condition are between the ages of 40-55, the usual age group for the onset of menopause. Research suggests that fibromyalgia symptoms are more severe in post-menopausal women than in women who are still menstruating.

Menopause can leave you reeling and wondering if what you're feeling isn't just in your mind (it's not). You feel as though you've taken a beating. The hormonal changes of menopause can leave you feeling cranky and sore. Sleep loss doesn't help and when you do sleep, you don't feel rested (this type of sleep is one of the hallmarks of fibromyalgia). As you lose calcium and other minerals, your body aches. Daniel J. Clauw, MD, Director: Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, Georgetown University adds, "People with fibromyalgia aren't just sensitive to pain; they also find loud noises, strong odors, and bright lights aversive."

Is There A Connection Between Menopause and Fibromyalgia?

When the female body produces less estrogen, symptoms like depression, sleeplessness, and anxiety may occur in fibromyalgia patients. The typical post-menopausal woman produces 40 percent less estrogen than a woman who is still experiencing menstruation. Replacement therapy doesn't seem to alleviate symptoms, though some mild improvement has been shown when estrogen patches are substituted for estrogen in pill form. Some studies show that decreased thyroid hormone levels and low thyroid function along with low estrogen and progesterone levels can be contributory factors in the symptoms such as fatigue, muscle pain, anxiety, and mood changes that plague fibromyalgia sufferers. More research is still needed to prove a correlation between menopause and fibromyalgia. Current research suggests an additional link to low levels of the hormone known as cortisol, produced by the adrenal gland.

Whether a woman experiences spontaneous menopause or stops menstruating as a result of a hysterectomy, the effect is the same. Says Sue Overton* of Cleveland, Ohio, "I had a surgically induced hysterectomy and almost immediately, I had all these crazy symptoms. I didn't know what to think except to decide that the trauma of losing my womb had made me lose my mind. I ached all over, I felt depressed and anxious, I couldn't sleep and when I did, I didn't feel at all refreshed. Thank God my doctor figured out I had fibromyalgia. At least I knew I wasn't crazy."

*Not her real name.

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