Fibromyalgia is common among patients with chronic heart failure, according to research from Australia, which demonstrated that the condition was linked to poorer health outcomes.
Cardiac failure patients with fibromyalgia were also more commonly affected by other diseases believed to stem from so-called central sensitivity — abnormal brain and spinal cord responses to sensory stimuli.
The finding that fibromyalgia is common in this patient group provides an opportunity to address not only heart failure, but also fibromyalgia symptoms, the research team from Monash University School of Medicine in Melbourne, Australia, argued.
The study, “Fibromyalgia has a high prevalence and impact in cardiac failure patients,” was published in the European Journal of Rheumatology.
Earlier research showed that fibromyalgia often coexists with other chronic diseases, ranging from autoimmune conditions to infectious diseases such as hepatitis.
Patients with coronary artery disease, a heart condition in which blood vessels become blocked with plaque, often have fibromyalgia. A study found that the severity of fibromyalgia followed the severity of the heart disease.
But there had been no data, until now, on the prevalence of fibromyalgia in patients with cardiac failure, the Monash research team noted.
The team recruited 57 heart failure patients, of which 63.2% were men. The average age of the group was 70.3 years. These characteristics differ from typical fibromyalgia patients, which are mainly younger women.
Among them, 22.8% fulfilled diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia. Even more — 31% — had widespread musculoskeletal pain, with at least 11 tender points. In addition, 19.3% had depression. When this number was split for those with and without fibromyalgia, slightly more patients in the fibromyalgia group were affected by depression.
Patients with fibromyalgia and heart failure scored worse on all aspects of a general health assessment, compared to patients with only heart failure.
Researchers found that the severity of fibromyalgia was related to the severity of general health impairment, with more severe fibromyalgia linked to worse physical and mental health.
“This finding highlights the broad and significant effect [fibromyalgia] has on all aspects of well-being,” researchers wrote.
In addition, the team found that all other central sensitivity diseases investigated, including temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, irritable bowel disease (IBD), headache, and chemical sensitivity were more common in people with both heart failure and fibromyalgia.
The results support the idea that fibromyalgia is caused by an increased central nervous system sensitivity, researchers said.
They now hope that the recognition of fibromyalgia in patients with heart failure may lead to better outcomes for these patients.