Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Health Services Research and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A patient survey of the impact of fibromyalgia and the journey to diagnosis

Ernest Choy1, Serge Perrot2, Teresa Leon3, Joan Kaplan3, Danielle Petersel3*, Anna Ginovker4 and Erich Kramer4

Author Affiliations

1 Sir Alfred Baring Garrod Clinical Trials Unit, Academic Department of Rheumatology, King's College London, UK

2 Service de Médecine Interne et Centre de la Douleur, Hôtel-Dieu, Paris, France

3 Pfizer Inc, 235 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017, USA

4 Harris Interactive, Independence Way, Princeton, New Jersey, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Health Services Research 2010, 10:102  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-102

Published: 26 April 2010

Abstract

Background

Fibromyalgia is a painful, debilitating illness with a prevalence of 0.5-5.0% that affects women more than men. It has been shown that the diagnosis of fibromyalgia is associated with improved patient satisfaction and reduced healthcare utilization. This survey examined the patient journey to having their condition diagnosed and studied the impact of the condition on their life.

Methods

A questionnaire survey of 800 patients with fibromyalgia and 1622 physicians in 6 European countries, Mexico and South Korea. Patients were recruited via their physician.

Results

Over half the patients (61%) were aged 36-59 years, 84% were women, and the mean time since experiencing fibromyalgia symptoms was 6.5 years. Patients had experienced multiple fibromyalgia symptoms (mean of 7.3 out of 14), with pain, fatigue, sleeping problems and concentration difficulties being the most commonly reported. Most patients rated their chronic widespread pain as moderate or severe and fibromyalgia symptoms were on average "fairly" to "very" disruptive, and had a "moderate" to "strong" impact on patients' lives. 22% were unable to work and 25% were not able to work all the time because of their fibromyalgia. Patients waited on average almost a year after experiencing symptoms before presenting to a physician, and it took an average of 2.3 years and presenting to 3.7 different physicians before receiving a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Patients rated receiving a diagnosis as somewhat difficult on average and had difficulties communicating their symptoms to the physician. Over one third (35%) felt their chronic widespread pain was not well managed by their current treatment.

Conclusions

This survey provides further evidence that fibromyalgia is characterized by multiple symptoms and has a notable impact on quality of life and function. The diagnosis of fibromyalgia is delayed. Patients wait a significant period of time before presenting to a physician, adding to the prolonged time to diagnosis. Patients typically present with a multitude of symptoms, all resulting in a delay in diagnosis and eventual management. Helping clinicians to diagnose and manage patients with fibromyalgia should benefit both patients and funders of healthcare.