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A prospective long-term study of fibromyalgia (FM) syndrome

  [ 73 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • April 6, 1996

OBJECTIVE: To ascertain the long-term natural history of
fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS).

METHODS: Patients with a history
of FMS, seen in an academic rheumatology referral practice,
were originally surveyed soon after onset of symptoms, and
then were reinterviewed 10 years later in a prospective
followup cohort study. A validated telephone survey was
administered that inquired into current symptoms, medical care
and treatments used, and work disability. The results were
compared with the prior surveys.

RESULTS: Of the original 39
patients, there were 4 deaths. Of the remaining 35 patients,
29 (83%) were reinterviewed. Mean age at current survey was 55
years, and mean duration of symptoms was 15.8 years. All
patients had persistence of some fibromyalgia symptoms,
although almost half (48%) had not seen a doctor for them in
the last year. Moderate to severe pain or stiffness was
reported in 55% of patients; moderate to a lot of sleep
difficulty was noted in 48%; and moderate to extreme fatigue
was noted in 59%. These symptoms showed little change from
earlier surveys. In 79% of patients, medications were still
being taken to control FMS symptoms. Despite continuing
symptoms, 66% of patients reported that FMS symptoms were a
little or a lot better than when first diagnosed. Fifty-five
percent of patients said they felt well or very well in terms
of FMS symptoms, and only 7% felt they were doing poorly. With
the exception of sleep trouble, which was persistent, baseline
survey symptoms correlated poorly with symptoms at the 10-year

CONCLUSION: FMS symptoms last, on average, at least
15 years after illness onset. However, most patients
experience some improvement in symptoms after FMS onset.

Kennedy M, Felson DT

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