About 5 million Americans have fibromyalgia. The condition affects women more often than men.
Some evidence suggests that several factors may make people more susceptible to fibromyalgia. These risk factors include:
- Being female
- Coming from a very stressful culture or environment
- Having a psychological vulnerability to stress
- Having had difficult experiences in childhood
Nine out of 10 fibromyalgia patients are women. Women may be especially likely to develop fibromyalgia during menopause.
The disorder usually occurs in people ages 20 - 60, though it can occur at any time. Some studies have noted peaks at around age 35. Others note that fibromyalgia is most common in middle-aged women. In one study, cases of fibromyalgia increased with age and reached a frequency of more than 7% among people in their 60s and 70s.
Juvenile Primary Fibromyalgia. This type of fibromyalgia appears in adolescents, typically after age 13, with a peak incidence at age 14. It is uncommon, but studies indicate that its incidence may be increasing. Symptoms are similar to adult fibromyalgia, but outcomes may be better in young people. Girls are affected by fibromyalgia more often than boys.
Studies report an increased prevalence of fibromyalgia among family members. Children and siblings of people with fibromyalgia are eight times more likely to develop the condition than the general population. Family members are also more sensitive to pain, and more likely to have related conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, temporomandibular disorder, or headaches.
Genetic, environmental, and psychological factors may all be involved in fibromyalgia. Current research is examining variations in certain genes in people with fibromyalgia. These changes affect the transport of compounds that play an important role in the stress response and may affect the way a person processes pain.
Review Date: 12/27/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.