Most Teens with Fibromyalgia Have Pain as Adults, Study

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Teens experience worse symptoms of fibromyalgia, Four of five continued to experience symptoms, while half had full-blown disorder, study finds

Fibromyalgia in teens leads to pain and fatigue in adulthood, and teens experience worse symptoms than adults. The findings of the study uncovered that four out of five teenagers with juvenile fibromyalgia will continue experiencing pain and other symptoms in the adulthood.

Nearly half of those with juvenile fibromyalgia will end up with full-blown adult fibromyalgia. Study author Susmita Kashikar-Zuck said, “Half of the former teens we studied met the full criteria for adult fibromyalgia, and another 35 percent of them continued to have symptoms of fatigue, pain, and sleep difficulty, but did not meet all the criteria for fibromyalgia syndrome.”

Root cause of pediatric fibromyalgia

For many decades, people who complained of widespread chronic pain were believed to have inflammation in their muscles, dubbed fibrositis (“itis” means inflammation). Then in the 1970s, as doctors came to better understand this condition, the name fibromyalgia appeared: fibro for fibrous tissues, my stands for muscles and algia for pain.

The new name underscored the belief that, unlike arthritis, the pain of fibromyalgia doesn’t stem from inflammation, an immune system response that causes swelling, stiffness and pain and which, if unchecked, can permanently damage tissues. Instead, many believe fibromyalgia is rooted in the nervous system: the brain, the spinal cord and a vast network of special cells called neurons.


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The nervous system sends, receives and interprets information including pain from all parts of the body. In the case of fibromyalgia, it’s as though the “volume control” is turned up too high in the parts of the nervous system that perceive and react to pain.

What causes Fibromyalgia in Teens?

Well, we don’t exactly know what causes fibromyalgia in adults, so as you might guess, we also don’t exactly know what causes fibromyalgia in teens, either. Although no specific gene has been identified yet, it has been discovered that fibromyalgia does run in the family, meaning that a person who has a related family member who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia is more likely to be diagnosed with it themselves over a person who has no family history of diagnosed fibromyalgia.

Ask for family history

o if your teen has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, ask yourself if anyone else in the family has.  Not just your or our spouse or your other children, but anyone in your extended family. If so, then it’s understandable for why your teen has developed fibromyalgia (though it’s still rare to at such a young age), but if your family has no history of fibromyalgia, then it’s definitely a very rare occurrence that your teen has been diagnosed.

We also know that more girls than boys have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia in the past, so a teenage girl being diagnosed with fibromyalgia is more likely than a teenage boy as well.

Fibromyalgia symptoms may be worse in teens

Fibromyalgia may be worse on younger people than older patients, according to research. Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, which can take a negative toll on a person’s day-to-day life. The impact of fibromyalgia can be particularly detrimental in younger individuals. For the study, 978 patients were divided into three age groups: under 39, 40 to 59, and over 60. Younger and middle-aged patients were more likely to be employed, unmarried, smokers, have higher education, and lower body mass index.

Senior author Dr. Terry Oh said, “Among the three age groups of young, middle-aged, and older, symptom severity and quality of life differs.” The findings surprised researchers because older adults typically have poorer quality of life. The study was presented in 2013 at the American College of Rheumatology’s annual meeting in San Diego.

The Symptoms of Fibromyalgia in Teens

The symptoms of fibromyalgia in teens are largely the same as in adults. The most common symptoms of fibromyalgia are fatigue, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, depression, constant headaches, dizziness, constant stomach aches, soreness, achiness and pain throughout the body especially in the muscles and joints, and more difficulty remembering things.

As with adults, fibromyalgia is difficult in teens. When a teenager is diagnosed with fibromyalgia, they will have immense difficulty sleeping at night due to the pain.  When they can’t sleep, they will only feel more tired and fatigued during the day, which only makes the pain worse.  So in this sense, the symptoms of fibromyalgia essentially work with one another.

Teens are unable to attend college

It’s very important that you find treatment for your teen if they are diagnosed with fibromyalgia.  Many teens will miss many days at school, which can affect their grades and their entire future (maybe their dream is to get into a college that holds high standards, but they miss an important lecture and fail the next test, leading to a B in the class when they could have had an A that the college would have accepted).

And if other teens in the school find out that your teen has fibromyalgia, your teen may rapidly become unpopular and become socially isolated and may lose friends.  So not only does fibromyalgia affect a teen medically, it also affects their work/school performance and their friends.


Because fibromyalgia doesn’t actually harm your child’s body, there is little risk it will lead to any physical health problems. Instead, its potential complications tend to be psychosocial that is, fibromyalgia may affect the way your child thinks, feels and interacts with others.

Dealing with chronic pain can be tough on kids, especially since other people may perceive them as being perfectly healthy. It’s not unusual for children with fibromyalgia to feel depressed or anxious. They may find it hard to function at school, and therefore just stay home when they’re not feeling well.


Not every child will have these kinds of psychosocial complications, of course. But for those who do, appropriate treatment may include counseling and cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps people recognize thought patterns and emotional responses that contribute to their symptoms, and gives them practical ways to change their behavior.


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By Dennis Thompson HealthDay Reporter via Web MD

SOURCES: Anne Eberhard, M.D., pediatric rheumatologist, Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, New Hyde Park; Susmita Kashikar-Zuck, Ph.D., research director, behavioral medicine and clinical psychology, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center; March 2014 Pediatrics

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