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Adrienne Dellwo

Fibromyalgia Underdiagnosed in Men, Symptoms May be Different

By January 8, 2013

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Research Brief

Two new studies looking at fibromyalgia in men point to differences in diagnosis rates and major pain symptoms.

Diagnosis Rates

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.

Perspective

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.

Learn More:

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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Comments
January 11, 2013 at 3:34 pm
(1) Lynn says:

I completely agree. When my husband goes to the chiropractor, fibromyalgia is stated on the treatment paper. That is the closest any one has gotten to out right diagnosing him. I see so many similarities to myself. I have been suffering for years. Don’t even get me started on the disability aspect. Fibromyalgia people really suffer with this, ssa really make you jump through so many hoops when applying when you can’t work.. By the way, ssa denied me.

January 12, 2013 at 1:47 am
(2) Bob Hall says:

Adrienne,

Thanks for the mention, I really appreciate it. I can’t remember now, but I do think the menwithfibro.com website & forum is 13 years old now, but due to fibrofog, I’m not sure.
We do welcome men with fibro, the spouses, and females who happen to own, or have one hanging around, they too, are more than welcome.
We are more than happy for new members, and we are excited about some of the new information coming out about men with fibro.
And BTW, we do appreciate all your efforts!

Bob Hall
ADMIN/Owner MWF
menwithfibro.com

January 12, 2013 at 1:55 am
(3) Bob Hall says:

Adrienne,
A super thanks for mentioning the menwithfibro.com site. We do appreciate the mention, and we certainly appreciate all your efforts to bring some of the best info to the forefront.
We’ve been around for about 13 years, fibrofog prevents me from remembering the exact number of years right now, but it is about right.
We welcome men with fibro, and women who happen to own one, or just have one around the house. So there are places for the women who are coping with a man with fibro, but the major focus is the forum dedicated to the topic of “men with fibro.”
menwithfibro.com continues to grow, offering info, support, friendship, and if one will, a brotherhood or fellowship of other men with fibro.
Once again. Thanks! for the mention, and you are immensely appreciated!

Bob Hall
ADMIN/Owner menwithfibro.com

January 12, 2013 at 11:32 am
(4) JoeBagaglia says:

Hello,
I am a frequent member of menwithfibro forum. These are a great bunch of guys and gals with the disease and offer at least a sounding board to vent, more importantly they offer coping skills and strategies on how to deal with this and related conditions. Spouses and girlfriends as well as women with related conditions are welcome and often have a lot to offer whether with the condition or better a chance for family and partners to learn and talk with others that can offer empathy and education. At the very least this forum offers individuals that they are not alone. I have found hope here and have made some good friends in the process.

I can not tell you how many doctors I have visited that strongly believe that fibromyalgia is a ” garbage diagnosis that has no discernible etiology”.

I agree that our medical community and researchers need to take this seriously and learn to understand that many conditions and diseases have very different symptoms in regards to the difference between men and women.

January 13, 2013 at 12:19 am
(5) Al Buite says:

The men with fibro site has been a great help for me and my family! It is a site that does not allow contriversey to interfere with the exchange of information. I’m VERY grateful for the efforts put forth by Bob and all of the staff that help to make it the best of the web for Men with Fibro.

January 15, 2013 at 2:23 am
(6) Bob Hall says:

Thanks for the mention, and info about men with fibro. We do exist!

Good job bringing info into the forefront……..

Keep up the good work!

Bob Hall
ADMIN/owner
MenWithFibro
menwithfibro.com

January 17, 2013 at 4:30 pm
(7) Nitalynn says:

I have been wondering for a while now if the big difference in statistics for women having fibro and men having it is true. Not only do I believe it is probably significantly underdiagnosed by doctors but I have come to believe that a lot of men with fibro are hidden in the much larger propensity of men to attempt to self medicate with alcohol and illegal pain killer use rather than go to a doctor and complete the whole process it requires to get diagnosed. Anyone that has lived with or raised a male knows that the vast majority of them have this ludicrist aversion to appearing ill much less going to the doctor. I have come to believe it is instinctive. I caveman who showed he was injured or ill so they had to pretend they weren’t for safetys sake. Fast forward a few hundred thousand years and now they will ignore an easily treated condition till it becomes almost or an actual emergeny and then try to tell you that it just started bothering them a few hours ago.

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