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Teens with Fibromyalgia Continue to have Pain as Adults

Update Date: Feb 26, 2014 02:49 PM EST

Fibromyalgia is a medical condition that involves long-term pain throughout the body and tenderness in the joints, tendons, muscles and other areas of soft tissues. In a new study, researchers examined the effects of juvenile fibromyalgia in teenagers and found that for the majority of them, pain will continue into adulthood.

"It appears to be caused by a pain hypersensitivity in the central nervous system," study author Susmita Kashikar-Zuck, a research director in behavioral medicine and clinical psychology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said. "It's sort of like the volume is turned up on pain, and now they are exquisitely sensitive to pain."

For this study, the research team tracked 94 teenagers that have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia for six years. They were diagnosed at the average age of 15 from 2002 to 2010. The researchers reported that 51 percent of the participants had symptoms that met the criteria for adult fibromyalgia set by the American College of Rheumatology. A little over one-third of the participants did not meet the criteria but had very specific symptoms that were similar to the health syndrome. These symptoms were pain, fatigue and sleeping difficulties. Overall, roughly four out of five teens who had juvenile fibromyalgia continued to experience pain during adulthood.

"Half of the former teens we studied met the full criteria for adult fibromyalgia, and another 35 percent of them continued to have symptoms of fatigue, pain and sleep difficulty, but did not meet all the criteria for fibromyalgia syndrome," said Kashikar-Zuck.

When the researchers compared the young adults with juvenile fibromyalgia to those without the condition, they found that the first group of participants experienced overall more pain, poorer physical function, greater anxiety levels, and had more visits to the doctor's office.

Doctors do not currently know what causes fibromyalgia. However, researchers have noted that this health syndrome appears to be passed down genetically. According to the experts, many of the teenagers who have juvenile fibromyalgia have at least one parent with the same health condition. Fibromyalgia also tends to affect women more so than men with roughly 80 to 90 percent of patients being females.

"Parents need to be careful about differentiating growing pains with fibromyalgia," Kashikar-Zuck said according to WebMD. "If they see a child who also has chronic muscle pain but also sleeplessness, they should seriously consider whether an evaluation should be done for fibromyalgia."

The study's findings were published in Pediatrics.

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