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Fibromyalgia Center

Possible Complications of Fibromyalgia

author image Nancy Baxi, M.D.
Dr. Nancy Baxi is a board-certified internal medicine physician with 19 years of experience. She is currently a primary care physician at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and an assistant professor of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University and has been an assistant professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine and the Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Baxi has been a key clinical educator of medical residents and students. She has a passion for sharing medical knowledge and teaching her patients to empower them, and she has won teaching and patient care awards for her work.
Possible Complications of Fibromyalgia
Possible Complications of Fibromyalgia Photo Credit Getty Images


Although patients with fibromyalgia can feel quite miserable, fortunately, the condition isn't life threatening. Most people have a baseline-level of pain, although the intensity of symptoms can go up or down. The most distressing part of this condition is that the patient’s quality of life can be significantly reduced. It’s important to remember that pain, fatigue, lack of sleep, and depression are all tied together, so if one of these is affected there will be a chain reaction causing the other symptoms to arise.


As discussed earlier, fibromyalgia patients commonly have sleep disturbances. If patients do not get adequate sleep, they can have more fatigue, pain and depression. The latter two can then lead to more trouble sleeping and it becomes a vicious cycle. A lot goes on in our bodies when sleep occurs. Deep sleep is when the brain restores itself, the waste in the brain gets cleaned out, and cell repair occurs. If patients don’t get enough sleep they may be tired, foggy-headed, or unable to concentrate and remember things. They may also get sick more easily because the immune system produces infection-fighting cells during sleep. Lastly there are medical problems that occur with long-term sleep deprivation, including weight gain.


The symptoms of fibromyalgia can interfere with your ability to function at home or on the job. The more pain, the less sleep, the more tired, the more depressed, the harder it is for patients to get through their day. Economically, this can be devastating and may lead a person to seek disability pay. Interestingly, it has been noted that patients who seek disability aren’t necessarily in more pain, rather, they have a worse outlook on their condition.

This condition can lead to loss of work, but also a loss of friends. Socially, it can take a toll on relationships as patients may not feel up to socializing due to mood or fatigue. This isolation can lead a person further into depression. It’s important that patients educate their friends and families about their condition and how best to support them.

Catastrophic thinking

One of the most important predictors of long-term prognosis is catastrophic thinking, or thinking the worst in every situation, so it is extremely important that patients keep a positive outlook. This is where cognitive behavior therapy can be very helpful. A psychologist or therapist who specializes in chronic-pain patients can help with this. Patients should feel like they are able to effectively manage their disease.

Medical problems

Generally speaking, the sicker someone is, or the more medicine they are on, the more easily they are apt to develop new problems. Specifically in fibromyalgia, patients often lose fitness and strength because they don’t exercise since they are too tired or in too much pain. Lack of exercise impedes improvement of the illness and worsens symptoms. Inactivity can also lead to weight gain, which then comes with its own set of problems, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, arthritis pain, and heartburn.

Medication side effects

Medications, though helpful, can have side effects and can sometimes lead to more problems. Common side effects from fibromyalgia medications are drowsiness, dry mouth, weight gain, and leg swelling. There can be more serious side effects if medication use is not supervised by a doctor. For example, if a patient takes opioids for their symptoms without being monitored by a medical professional, they risk of addiction to the medication, and may experience increased pain due a condition called opioid-induced hyperalgesia (lowered pain threshold). As with any medication decision, a benefit vs. risk analysis should be conducted with the prescriber, as well as regular monitoring by a medical professional.

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