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Rae GleasonPhysicians must become more knowledgeable in recognizing the difference between fibromyalgia and the aches and pains attributed to the natural aging process. Better fibromyalgia treatment modalities can help keep older adults ambulatory with a much better quality of life.

— Rae Marie Gleason
Fibromyalgia Department Head

Fibromyalgia affects an estimated 11 million people in the United States, 80-90% of whom are women.1 Results from rigorous epidemiologic studies have revealed that FM prevalence in the general population ranges from 1.3% to 10.5 %, affecting 7% of the adult female population. In older adults, emerging data suggests that the prevalence is up to 9%.2,3 The purpose of this paper is to describe the diagnosis and management of FM in older adults.

Older adults have rates of FM proportionately greater when compared to rates in younger adults.4 This will continue to increase as the population of those 65 years and older is projected to grow to 70 million people by 2050.5 Comorbid conditions that generally increase with age can become a serious health concern for this population.6,7 Comorbid conditions may overlap or mimic FM symptoms so that interventions must be chosen carefully to maximize treatments.

Declining physical function in older adults with FM has more serious implications. In populations of older adults, persistent pain is strongly associated with lower physical function,8,9 loss of mobility,10,11 and higher levels of disability.12 When compared to pain free controls, older adults with persistent pain experience two to three times as many problems with walking and twice as many problems with impaired mobility.9,13 Older adults’ ability to function independently in the community has been identified as a significant public health issue because the level of physical functioning required to maintain a household is lacking.6

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Last updated on: February 22, 2011
First published on: January 1, 2007