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Fibromyalgia prevalence at 2.1 percent of general German population

Study suggests fibromyalgia is a spectrum disorder

Researchers have determined that fibromyalgia prevalence is 2.1% of the general population in Germany. Results appearing in Arthritis Care & Research, a journal published by Wiley on behalf of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), suggest that fibromyalgia is a spectrum disorder rather than a categorical illness.

Additionally, a number of fibromyalgia cases in the general population satisfy proposed criteria for physical symptom disorder—the presence of one or more physical symptoms that impair function, which cannot be explained by another clinical or psychiatric illness.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic, musculoskeletal syndrome characterized by chronic widespread pain together with fatigue, sleep disturbances, cognitive problems, and multiple somatic symptoms. In 2010 the ACR released modified diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia, eliminating the tender point count assessment that was part of the 1990 criteria. Shortly after the modified criteria was published it was decided that the widespread pain index and symptom severity score could be combined to form a new measurement of pain and symptom severity termed the polysymptomatic distress scale (PSD).

The lead author of the current study, Dr. Frederick Wolfe with the National Data Bank for Rheumatic Diseases and University of Kansas School of Medicine in Wichita, reported on 2,445 subjects who were randomly selected from the general German population in 2012. The team used the 2010 modified ACR preliminary diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia to identify patients with the disease.

Findings show fibromyalgia prevalence at 2.1% with occurrence in women and men at 2.4% and 1.8%—a difference that was not statistically significant according to researchers. Furthermore, the team found evidence supporting the hypothesis that fibromyalgia is a spectrum disorder and not a distinct disease. Nearly 40% of fibromyalgia patients met the proposed criteria for a physical symptom disorder.

The authors suggest that fibromyalgia should be considered a spectrum or dimensional disorder by giving the range of polysymptomatic distress experienced by patients. A patient with a widespread pain index of 7 or more out of 19 pain sites and symptom severity score of 5 or more out of 12 will have a PSD scale score of at least 12, a cut point below which fibromyalgia criteria will not be met.

"Given the continuum of symptoms in patients, our study provides important evidence supporting fibromyalgia as a spectrum disorder," concludes Dr. Wolfe. "Our findings have important implications for epidemiologic and neurobiologic studies, clinical diagnosis and disease management, along with determining disability in those with fibromyalgia."

This study is published in Arthritis Care & Research. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact

Full citation: "Fibromyalgia Prevalence, Somatic Symptom Reporting, and the Dimensionality of Polysymptomatic Distress: Results From a Survey of the General Population." Frederick Wolfe, Elmar Brahler, Andreas Hinz and Winfried Hauser. Arthritis Care and Research; Published Online: February 19, 2013 (DOI: 10.1002/acr.21931).

About the Journal

Arthritis Care & Research is an official journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), and the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (ARHP), a division of the College. Arthritis Care & Research is a peer-reviewed research publication that publishes both original research and review articles that promote excellence in the clinical practice of rheumatology. Relevant to the care of individuals with arthritis and related disorders, major topics are evidence-based practice studies, clinical problems, practice guidelines, health care economics, health care policy, educational, social, and public health issues, and future trends in rheumatology practice. The journal is published by Wiley on behalf of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR). For more information, please visit

About Wiley

Founded in 1807, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. has been a valued source of information and understanding for more than 200 years, helping people around the world meet their needs and fulfill their aspirations. Wiley and its acquired companies have published the works of more than 450 Nobel laureates in all categories: Literature, Economics, Physiology or Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, and Peace.

Wiley is a global provider of content and content-enabled workflow solutions in areas of scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly research; professional development; and education. Our core businesses produce scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly journals, reference works, books, database services, and advertising; professional books, subscription products, certification and training services and online applications; and education content and services including integrated online teaching and learning resources for undergraduate and graduate students and lifelong learners. Wiley's global headquarters are located in Hoboken, New Jersey, with operations in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Canada, and Australia. The Company's Web site can be accessed at The Company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbols JWa and JWb.

Dawn Peters | EurekAlert!
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