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Who’s At Risk for Fibromyalgia?

There’s a lot that’s not known about fibromyalgia. Doctors aren’t sure what causes it and why it affects certain people instead of others. But experts continue to learn about the disease and who may be more likely to get it. The risk factors fall into five categories: gender, heredity, sleep pattern, weight, and having certain pre-existing conditions. Here are some risk factors identified so far:

Women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia. 

It is estimated 2 to 4 people out of 100 have fibromyalgia. The condition is about seven times more common in women than it is in men. However, men and children can have fibromyalgia, too. Most people with fibromyalgia are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50. It is not yet clear why fibromyalgia affects more women than men. 

Fibromyalgia may run in your genes. 

The disease sometimes runs in families, which suggests that genes may play a role. Scientists are getting closer to identifying specific genes that may be associated with fibromyalgia. The family connection may also be a function of common lifestyle and exposure to environmental factors, in addition to genetic factors.

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Sleep problems can play a role. 

In one study, women who regularly experienced sleep problems were more likely to develop fibromyalgia during the following 10 years. Sleep deprivation is associated with increased inflammation and a decrease in the body’s ability to block pain signals, factors that could contribute to your risk of developing fibromyalgia.

Obesity increases your risk. 

Women who are overweight or obese have a 60 to 70% greater chance of developing fibromyalgia compared with women who are a normal weight. The good news: Exercise can help! Overweight or obese women who exercise two or more hours each week have a 23% lower risk of being diagnosed with the painful syndrome.

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People with other rheumatic diseases may have a higher risk.

If you have another health problem that affects your joints, muscles or bones, such as osteoarthritis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or ankylosing spondylitis (arthritis mainly affecting the spine), you may be more likely to develop fibromyalgia. Work closely with your doctor to manage your condition, and let your doctor know if any new or painful symptoms occur.

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Other issues may trigger fibromyalgia. 

There’s still a lot to learn about how fibromyalgia begins, but experts have found that several other issues may be at play with the disease:

  • Certain conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Emotional stress including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Physically traumatic events such as a car accident or serious injury

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