Women's Health

Fibromyalgia Presents Differently in Male, Female Veterans

by U.S. Medicine

May 21, 2018

WEST HAVEN, CT — Research on fibromyalgia, a poorly understood, chronically disabling pain syndrome, generally has focused on its clinical presentation and treatment.

A new study published in the Journal of Women’s Health points out that less is known about fibromyalgia’s clinical epidemiology in real-world healthcare systems. One issue, the article noted, is that gender differences have been difficult to study, because relatively few males are diagnosed with fibromyalgia.1

To remedy that, a study team led by researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System compared VHA patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia nationwide in FY 2012 veterans with other pain diagnoses on sociodemographic characteristics, medical and psychiatric diagnoses, health service use and opioid and psychotropic prescription fills.

Additional analyses compared characteristics of men and women diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Results indicate that 77,087 of 2,216,621 veterans with pain diagnoses (3.48%) were diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Those patients were:

•  more likely to be female,
•  younger than patients with other pain conditions,
•  more likely to have multiple psychiatric comorbidities and other types of pain, and
•  have used more medical outpatient services.

Study authors explained that women diagnosed with fibromyalgia were younger and more likely to have headaches, connective tissue diseases (CTD) and psychiatric comorbidities, while men had more comorbid medical conditions.

“In this large, predominantly older male sample of veterans with pain diagnoses, those with fibromyalgia were far more likely to be women,” the researchers concluded. “Gender comparisons showed women with fibromyalgia were more likely to be diagnosed with psychiatric disorders and CTD, while males were more likely to be diagnosed with medical conditions. Fibromyalgia shows a striking, gender-dependent picture of multimorbidity, which should be considered in treatment.”

1Arout CA, Sofuoglu M, Bastian LA, Rosenheck RA. Gender Differences in the Prevalence of Fibromyalgia and in Concomitant Medical and Psychiatric Disorders: A National Veterans Health Administration Study. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2018 Apr 2. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2017.6622. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 29608126.

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