Two new studies looking at fibromyalgia in men point to differences in diagnosis rates and major pain symptoms.
A Nov. 2012 study published in Arthritis Care & Research backed a common belief among fibromyalgia experts that the illness is underdiagnosed, especially in men.
By examining patient records and conducting a large survey in a single county, researchers say they were able to identify a pattern of non-diagnosis in men when they presented with potential fibromyalgia symptoms. While women were more likely that men to be diagnosed, overall women also appeared to be underdiagnosed as well.
What is keeping doctors from diagnosing fibromyalgia? That's a topic for further study. However, it's not hard to speculate - we've long known that the medical community is poorly educated about this condition, and many of them are biased against it. Also, fibromyalgia is often seen as a "women's disease," so doctors may simply not think about it with male patients.
Some experts speculate that men may be less likely to complain about symptoms that could lead to a diagnosis, but because this study looked patient records, that's less likely to be a significant factor in this research.
Symptoms & Gender Differences
A Dec. 2012 study published in Pain Medicine demonstrated differences in symptoms between men and women with fibromyalgia, especially when it came to certain pain symptoms.
Men had lower:
- Reported pain intensity
- Tender-point count
- Depression rates
Men had greater:
- Duration of symptoms
- Overall disability
Additionally, men with ongoing pain were especially likely to have pressure-triggered hyperalgesia (heightened pain response) in the neck.
Taking these two studies together, I have to wonder whether the different symptom profile plays into the underdiagnosis rate. Even a doctor who "believes" in fibromyalgia and has seen it in female patients may not recognize it in a man.
These studies add to a body of literature that remains too small, but they are a sign that the guys among us are being recognized and taken more seriously by researchers. It's a start.
Men, there's a website and forum dedicated especially to you: menwithfibro.com. It may be a more comfortable place for you to talk and find support than the typical female-dominated forums and chat rooms.
Have you seen first hand that fibromyalgia is different in men? What do you think keeps doctors from recognizing it in men, or in all of us? Leave your comments below!
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