There are few prevalence studies in the United States about the number of children and teenagers with juvenile fibromyalgia (JFM). However, some estimates, based on the American College of Rheumatology’s (ACR) diagnostic criteria, are as high as 6%.
In rheumatology practices, JFM is a fairly common problem. Cincinnati Children Hospital Medical Center in Ohio sees about 40-45 new cases of JFM patients per year, according to Dr. Susmita Kashikar-Zuck, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the hospital. Not all children will require medication or non-medicinal treatments for the symptoms, and some youth get better over time without any treatment.
Prevalence in Female Patients
The number of girls who are diagnosed with JFM outnumbers boys, just as fibromyalgia is more common in adult women than in men. It is currently not clear why fibromyalgia is more common in females, but there has been some research to indicate that fibromyalgia is genetic with first degree female relatives most likely to have symptoms.
Chronic widespread body pain is the chief symptom of fibromyalgia in both adults and children, which includes sore spots on the muscles. These spots, called “tender points” hurt when pressure is applied to them. The soreness may start in one part of the body and eventually affect others. Further, children with fibromyalgia have stiffness, tightness and burning and aching pains in their muscles. Some research suggests pain can be a far worse symptom for children than known because children may perceive pain as normal and/or don’t speak up about pain.
Other JFM symptoms include sleep disturbances, fatigue, anxiety, chronic headaches, soft tissue swelling, leg pain, restless legs, stomach pains, and cognitive difficulties. Children living with JFM may miss many school days and have difficultly participating in sports and other rigorous activities. And when they are able to attend school, they struggle with memory and concentration issues.
Some research suggests that adolescents with JFM experience problems with peer relationships due to the inability to participate and missing a lot of school. All of these problems put them at risk for social isolation from their peers and cause psychological problems, including anxiety and depression.
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