Fibromyalgia in Children
Girls are more likely to have fibromyalgia syndrome, and children are more likely to develop fibromyalgia syndrome around puberty – between the ages of 11 and 15.
DiagnosisDiagnosis in children can be difficult, as children are not always as good as adults are at describing symptoms. Children go through so many changes during puberty that the symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome may be missed.
The process of diagnosis is similar to that in adults – a doctor will assess the symptoms include sleep problems, tiredness, depression, anxiety, frequent colds and regularly feeling unwell, and assess the pain (which can be mistaken for growing pains) at specific trigger points.
TreatmentAs with adults, treatment for fibromyalgia syndrome may include drug therapy, such as anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants or antidepressants, heat treatments, ensuring enough sleep, controlled low-impact exercise and stretching, physiotherapy, and psychological support and therapy. Children should be encouraged to have as normal a life as possible without getting overtired.
Avoiding caffeine in the late afternoon and evening, and keeping to a routine at bedtime, can help to establish a better sleep pattern.
According to a study carried out in Canada in children aged 8 to 18, moderate levels of aerobic exercise helps children with fibromyalgia syndrome, improving their quality of life and levels of fatigue, and increasing their functional capability (the amount they can do).
RelationshipsIt can be difficult for healthy siblings of children with fibromyalgia syndrome, as they may feel that their brother or sister is getting more attention, or does not have to take on as big a share of the household chores (see ‘How Fibromyalgia Can Affect Friends and Family’). It can also be difficult for parents to remember to be patient with mood swings and bad days.
At SchoolChildren with fibromyalgia syndrome may fidget because of discomfort or sleepiness, and can sometimes struggle to keep up with schoolwork, because of the issues with lack of concentration and tiredness, so teachers should be kept informed of their diagnosis and progress. Depending on the pattern of symptoms, some children may not be able to get to school on time because of morning stiffness, or cope with an entire day at school without rests.
Because of muscle and joint pain, children with fibromyalgia syndrome may have difficulties with carrying books to school each day, so having a duplicate set at school and at home may help.
Children with fibromyalgia syndrome may be bullied, so parents and teachers should watch out for signs of this.