How Fibromyalgia Affects Men

How Fibromyalgia Affects Men

By: Dr Alex Robber

Randy Wold, 58, was an car technician, a great golfer, and a bowler who never scored under 200. Then, almost 10 years ago he got a surprise diagnosis when he was suffering from severe chronic pain. His doctor told him that he had fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia affects many women as a condition that induces chronic pain and fatigue.

Of the estimated 5 million fibromyalgic adults in the U.S., as few as 10 percent are men, that’s why the popular perception of it as a female disease has persisted, even among fellow patients. “It was all women when I first went to a support group meeting,” says Wold, who is now on the board of the National Fibromyalgia Association–and the disease’s only male board member.

“Others didn’t want me there.” He wouldn’t be seen by a neurologist that Wold met, discounting his diagnosis and accusing him of angling for disability benefits. “Having fibromyalgia is a rough deal for a man,” says Wold, who is no longer able to function and can only reach the links or the lanes on occasion. “I don’t think one of my best friends does,” he says. “His aunt, who is a doctor, told him that men would not be able to get it, that it was in my brain.

Many doctors think fibro as a women’s disease

Fibromyalgia can be especially serious on men. “People are supposed to’ suck it up and toughen it out'” one man noted in a survey released earlier this month about the ailment. People could potentially wait years, feeling ever worse, until they have a diagnosis.

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Daniel Clauw, a rheumatologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, told Healthline that people are frequently treated for low back pain that doesn’t compensate for their other symptoms. They end up having “too much surgery,” and they could even end up with a prescription for opioids that would make their condition worse. Having the right treatment requires that you face embarrassment.

“As hard as it is often for a woman to be believed, it’s usually more difficult for men, as many physicians and others often think of fibro as a women’s disease,” writes Kevin P. White, a rheumatologist and author of “Breaking Thru the Fibro Fog: Scientific Evidence Fibromyalgia Is True.” “Men with fibro, therefore, are still stigmatized as wimpy or whiney or lazy and opportunistic.”

Fibromyalgia Rarer Among Men

What causes fibromyalgia or why very few people actually suffer from it is unclear. This may cause other forms of viral infections, traumas like auto accidents and emotional stress. For certain situations, however, it hits without warning. Whatever the cause, there are certain biological markers that often have in common with those with the disorder.

The fibromyalgia is characterized by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, according to Muhammad B. Yunus, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. “It’s a neurochemical disorder,” says Yunus, who points out that people with fibromyalgia show a higher than normal level of P, a neurotransmitter that signals pain, and a lower than average level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that prevents pain.

Risk factors

Fibromyalgia affects between 2 to 8 per cent of the population of the United States. While women account for 80 to 90 per cent of people with fibromyalgia, men of all ages can also have fibromyalgia. In reality, up to 1.5 million people in the U.S. actually may have fibromyalgia, and many more will experience it during their lives. Many individuals are at greater risk of developing fibromyalgia compared with others. Certain risk factors for the development of fibromyalgia include, as well as gender:

  • A personal history of other rheumatic diseases including lupus
  • A history of mood or depressive disorders
  • A family history of fibromyalgia
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Often Overlooked

Fibromyalgia affects between 2 to 8 per cent of the population of the United States. While women account for 80 to 90 per cent of people with fibromyalgia, men of all ages can also have fibromyalgia. In reality, up to 1.5 million people in the U.S. actually may have fibromyalgia, and many more will experience it during their lives. 

Many individuals are at greater risk of developing fibromyalgia compared with others. Certain risk factors for the development of fibromyalgia include, as well as gender:

One research indicated under-diagnosis of fibromyalgia in general, and even more under-diagnosis in men. It was a fairly small sample, and the reasons behind the under-diagnosis were not discussed. But, now that a bit of attention has been paid to the problem, we can continue to learn more about it.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia in Men

Fatigue

Fatigue happens mainly in patients. Bad or disrupted sleep is commonly recorded with frequent night-time awakenings, and trouble falling back to sleep. Feeling tired after waking can be extreme, and morning stiffness is common.5 Symptoms of male fibromyalgia often tend to persist for shorter time and occur less often than those that arise in female patients. A recent research, however, indicates that male symptoms may potentially be more severe than those that women experience. They often suggested that people appeared to have:

  • Lower reported pain intensity
  • Lower tender-point count
  • Lower depression rates
  • Longer duration of symptoms when making the first complaint to a doctor
  • Higher overall disability due to symptoms

Diagnosis To be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a man has to have more than 3 months of widespread suffering. There must be no established medical cause for the discomfort. There are no laboratory methods for diagnosing fibromyalgia, but a physician may do blood testing and scans to rule out any causes. A man who has fibromyalgia can find diagnosis difficult. Symptoms of fibromyalgia occur in a variety of diseases and disorders which doctors may have to rule out. Some doctors can see fibromyalgia as the disease of a woman and may not see fibromyalgia as a viable diagnosis in a man.

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