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Abstract: Evaluation and management of endocrine dysfunction in fibromyalgia

  [ 115 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • August 2, 2002

Source: Rheum Dis Clin North Am 2002 May;28(2):389-404  Geenen R, Jacobs JW, Bijlsma JW.  Department of Health Psychology, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 80140, 3508 TC Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Fibromyalgia-like symptoms such as muscle pain and tenderness, exhaustion, reduced exercise capacity, and cold intolerance, resemble symptoms associated with endocrine dysfunction like hypothyroidism, and adrenal or growth hormone insufficiency.

To investigate the potential of management of endocrine abnormalities for relieve of symptoms of patients with fibromyalgia, we reviewed experimental and clinical studies of endocrine functioning and endocrine treatment. Serum GH, androgen, and 24-hour urinary cortisol levels of patients with fibromyalgia tend to be in the lower part of the normal range, while serum levels of thyroid hormone, female sex hormones, prolactin, and melatonin are normal. With exception of GH, these conclusions are based on studies in small samples. With respect to dynamic responsiveness of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the dexamethasone suppression test and stimulation with ACTH show normal results, while patients show marked ACTH hypersecretion in response to severe acute stressors, perhaps indicative of chronic CRH hyposecretion.

This finding and slightly altered responsiveness of growth hormone, thyroid hormone, and prolactin in pharmacologic stimulation tests suggest a central rather than peripheral origin of endocrine deviations. Because hormone level deviations were not severe, occurred in subgroups of patients only, and few controlled clinical trials were performed, there is--unless future research shows otherwise--little support for hormone supplementation as a general therapy in the common patient with fibromyalgia.

In patients with clinically overt hormone deficiency, hormonal supplementation is an option. In patients with hormone levels that are in the lower part of the normal range, interventions aimed at pain, fatigue, sleep or mood disturbance, and physical deconditioning may indirectly improve endocrine functioning.

PMID: 12122926 [PubMed - in process]

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