A Spanish study published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology indicates that most women with fibromyalgia report having memory problems and cannot concentrate, and that the majority of them also suffer from anxiety and depression. .
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder characterized by generalized musculoskeletal pain and tenderness, fatigue , sleep disturbances, memory problems, and mood problems. Researchers believe that this condition amplifies pain sensations by altering the way the brain processes pain signals. The disease affects women more than men. Patients usually have cognitive problems, but doctors don’t know if this is due to cognitive dysfunction or if clinical depression is the cause.
“Despite the widespread acceptance of a high frequency of subjective cognitive complaints in patients with fibromyalgia, very few previous studies have specifically sought to quantify the magnitude of such complaints in this population,” according to the authors of the study that took place at Santa Maria Hospital in Lleida, a city in northeastern Catalonia in Spain
The study took place between August 2013 and March 2014 and recruited 105 women with fibromyalgia. The researchers performed neuropsychological assessments that included measures of attention and executive functions. Patients were assessed by completing questionnaires covering several topics, including cognitive impairment, anxiety, depression, pain intensity, physical functioning, quality of sleep and quality of life.
They reported that almost 83% of the women had cognitive problems, 23% of them mild and 60% moderate to severe. Depressive symptoms were generally described as insufficient working memory capacity and poor daily physical functioning. Together, 82% of the women had symptoms of depression and 70% had significant levels of anxiety, while 68.6% of the participants suffered from both depression and anxiety.
“The results of this study confirm that subjective cognitive complaints are very common in patients with fibromyalgia, but are not exclusively related to depressive symptoms. functional and objective cognitive dysfunction may also be involved in their manifestation,” the researchers wrote. They also urged doctors to “not downplay” their patients’ cognitive complaints.