A lot of us with fibromyalgia say our symptoms follow our menstrual periods, and now that's confirmed by information presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 62nd Annual Meeting.
Researchers say they found that some women have more symptoms from fibromyalgia before or during their periods. They also looked at women with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and interstitial cystitis (IC, a painful bladder condition) and got similar results.
The study didn't involve testing estrogen levels, but the researchers think the drop in estrogen before periods may be to blame, because estrogen can prevent pain.
However, the hormonal fluctuations didn't bother all the women in the study. They seem to impact only 18% of those with fibromyalgia, 25% with IBS, and 9% of those with IC. Researchers aren't sure why this is. Also, women on birth control pills containing estrogen appear to have fewer symptoms overall.
This study doesn't surprise me at all -- it only confirms my own experience. In my first year with full-blown fibromyalgia, I noticed that my flares started 2 weeks before my period. That week I was marginally functional, and the following week I was largely bedridden. Once my period started, I'd gradually get better. Then I'd have 1 good week and it would start again.
When I told my rheumatologist about that, she just nodded and said it was normal. But when I told my OB/GYN, he had a suggestion -- endometrial ablation. It's a very quick procedure where they go in and cauterize the uterine lining so it doesn't fill up with blood. That means no more period, and no more of the hormone fluctuations that go with it. It doesn't impact estrogen production, though, so I don't need to take hormones.
Recovering from the procedure wasn't fun, and it took about twice as long as normal, but it's the best thing I could have done for myself. Since then, my flares haven't been nearly as bad or nearly as long. (Ablation is only an option if you're done having children.)
The researchers in this study say they don't recommend going on birth control pills to counter the symptom flare. Certainly, there are a lot of things to consider when it comes to the pill, but it may be an option to bring up to your doctor and weigh against other treatments.
Do your fibro flares follow your menstrual cycle? Have birth control pills helped you, or have you gotten worse after going off of them? Take the poll, and leave your comments below!
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