Fibromyalgia: What Seniors Need to Know
Fibromyalgia affects between three and six million people in the United States, but it is far less common in seniors. Seniors who are affected by fibromyalgia typically have varied symptoms that are slightly different from those of people with fibromyalgia who are younger. It can affect senior health far greater.
While most people with fibromyalgia have widespread pain as their main symptom, seniors’ main symptom is often fatigue. Like others, depression and anxiety are also common, though fibromyalgia depression increases with the years. Some seniors also have soft-muscle swelling, sleep disturbances, morning sickness, and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as difficulty concentrating not related to Alzheimer’s. There is no clinical test for fibromyalgia in seniors, though individuals must have widespread pain for at least three months to be diagnosed with this syndrome. As well, other syndromes will be ruled out before the diagnosis
There are no known causes of fibromyalgia. It is thought that individuals with fibromyalgia are wired for sensitivity to pain and register even non-painful stimuli as painful.
Women more often have fibromyalgia than men; therefore, hormones may play a part in the cause of fibromyalgia. As a woman gets older, she produces fewer hormones, and fibromyalgia is less likely to affect her.
Because of the pain and fatigue caused by the syndrome, risks to the individual include a sedentary lifestyle and obesity. This, in itself, can lead to cardiovascular disease and many more complications. An individual may also get lost because of memory lapses.
The most significant treatments for fibromyalgia are a good diet and exercise routine. Seniors with fibromyalgia need to be careful not to overwork themselves, but can do low-impact exercise, such as tai chi, chair yoga, and walking. Best practices are to start slow and work one’s way up carefully; stopping if the exercise causes pain. For the diet, many claims are made for a gluten-free diet, but the important thing to remember is not to eat heavily processed foods.
There are medications that treat fibromyalgia, such as Lyrica and Neurontin, but one should also take calcium and magnesium supplements. A multi-vitamin can ensure that the individual is getting all the right nutrients and, if the doctor recommends it, half a tablet of melatonin will help with sleep disturbances. Other tricks are to not nap after 4:00 PM and limit all naps to half an hour, reduce or remove caffeine, and eat protein at dinner or before bedtime to avoid hunger pangs.