Fibromyalgia is estimated to affect approximately 2% of the population which equates to several hundred thousand sufferers in Australia. It is one of the most common rheumatic syndromes. The female:male ratio is 9:1, and it is most frequent between the ages of 20-50 years.
Adult women appear to be at greater risk for developing fibromyalgia than men or children, however, it can affect all ages and both sexes. Historically, 75 to 90 per cent of people diagnosed with FM have been women, but new information may eventually change those figures.
FM experts are finding that men often have fewer than the traditional 11 tender points required for diagnosis, yet meet all the other criteria for FM. And what was once thought to be ‘growing pains’ in children may turn out to be a previously unrecognized form of FM.
Although FM will probably still occur most frequently in adult women, we may soon discover it affects significantly more men and children than once thought.
The specific cause of FM remains unknown. Studies suggest that the body’s response to stress may be responsible.
A number of features have been noted including disturbed non-rapid eye-movement sleep, alterations in muscle fibres, altered hormonal functions, and decreased blood flow to certain parts of the brain.
Patients with FM also tend to have higher rates of past physical or psychological trauma compared to the rest of the population.
Another risk factor may be family history, as there is growing evidence of a genetic component in FM. If someone in your family has FM, you may be at greater risk of developing it yourself.