Is There a Connection Between Fibromyalgia and Diabetes?

Did you realize that fibromyalgia and diabetes occur almost four times more often than you’d ever dream of expecting? Research has shown that keeping a tight rein on the blood sugar levels of diabetic patients actually greatly reduces the risk of the individual developing fibromyalgia at some point in their lives.

A 2003 study done in the journal Rheumatology International, showed that around 15 to 18 percent of diabetic patients also have fibromyalgia. This suggests that there is a link between the two.

The Connection between Fibromyalgia and Diabetes

The interesting thing about the study done in Rheumatology International was that when it came to a connection between the two, the connection was much stronger in those individuals who had type 1 diabetes than for those that had type 2 diabetes- though the association between fibromyalgia and diabetes was much higher in those with type 2.

The reason this association is so interesting is because type 1 diabetes is considered to occur due to an autoimmune disease, though the trigger is not exactly known. Due to the autoimmunity related to type 1 diabetes and the fact that it is strongly associated with fibromyalgia- around 4 times of the population- suggests that those who support that autoimmunity causes fibromyalgia could be headed in the right direction. Of course, before this is officially established, more research must be done.

Another very interesting connection between diabetes and fibromyalgia is that controlling blood sugar levels is directly connected with the likelihood of developing fibromyalgia. The higher a diabetic patient’s hemoglobin A1C levels are, the higher their likelihood of suffering from fibromyalgia. The hemoglobin A1C levels are the measure of how well the blood sugar levels are being controlled.

Also interesting to note is that the high blood sugar levels are associated with an increase in the severity of fibromyalgia symptoms in those individuals with both disorders. The symptoms that are substantially increased in those who have poor control of their blood sugar include: fatigue, headaches, the number of tender points, and disturbances in sleep.

Fibromyalgia and Diabetes

Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia and Diabetes

Reaching a diagnosis of fibromyalgia in those patients who already are dealing with diabetes can be very difficult. This is because diabetes can actually mimic any or all of the symptoms that are associated directly with fibromyalgia. Due to the fact that there is no test that can truly demonstrate the presence of fibromyalgia, the only way to truly reach a diagnosis is through true clinical testing of the symptoms.

Those who are suffering from diabetes- especially female patients- must be aware that fibromyalgia actually occurs at a rate of four times more in those who have diabetes than is seen in the general public. Because of this, those symptoms that are connected with diabetes but don’t get better when blood sugar levels are under control, should be looked at more closely because they could point to fibromyalgia.

One of the most common sources of confusion between the symptoms in diabetes and fibromyalgia is that the sensory symptoms, such as shooting nerve pain, tenderness, and general pain, is typically experienced in both conditions. However, a study conducted in 2011 in Germany showed that the distribution of the symptoms was actually different. This study took a look at the following seven symptoms:

  • Prickling Pain
  • Burning Pain
  • Numbness
  • Waxing/Waning pain (known as attacks)
  • Pain to normal, everyday stimuli
  • Pressure Points
  • Pain to Hot Object (known as thermal)

This study showed that the way the symptoms were grouped was related directly to the disease that was responsible for them. Following is what was discovered for these combinations of symptoms.

  • Attacks and pressure points were three times more likely to be caused by fibromyalgia than diabetes.
  • Thermal and pressure points were twice as likely to be caused by fibromyalgia as diabetes.
  • Prickling and numbness were three times more likely to be caused by diabetes instead of fibromyalgia.
  • Attacks and numbness were twice as likely to be caused by diabetes as fibromyalgia.
  • Burning, pressure, and attacks showed a slight difference in cause, favoring fibromyalgia as the cause over diabetes.

The results of this study suggested that while it is true that specific symptoms can be attributed to either of the disorders, taking an inventory of all of the symptoms could help to determine what the exact cause is based on how these are grouped together, as well as the timing and severity of them. Attacks of pain that are occurring at the same time that your pressure points are most sensitive are three times more likely to be caused by fibromyalgia than the attacks of pain that are occurring at the same time that numbness is.

Treatment of Fibromyalgia and Diabetes

The separate treatments for fibromyalgia and diabetes are quite different. However, treating one can (and often does) improve the manifesting symptoms of the other one. This is especially true where controlling blood sugar levels has a major impact on the fibromyalgia symptoms- managing your diabetes correctly actually reduces pain levels, the amount of disturbances in sleep, and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia.

Additionally, as it is with most other conditions, exercise is a great way to reduce the effects and symptoms of both fibromyalgia and diabetes. Exercise actually reduces the necessity of insulin and keeps you from reaching the extremes of blood sugar levels. It also serves to ward off heart disease and stroke that are common among the population suffering from diabetes. When it comes to fibromyalgia, exercise serves to reduce pain, increase sleep, and results in improvements in mood.

Aerobic exercise actually has many different benefits in regard to many different diseases, that not taking part in it actually means that you miss a very large and very important piece of any regimen of treatment. Experts recommend that you do about 15 to 20 minutes of light aerobic activity for a minimum of three times per week.

Both fibromyalgia and diabetes actually seem to be related more so than other diseases/disorders. It has been proven that fibromyalgia occurs around four times more often in those who have diabetes than it does in the general population. Researchers are working diligently to uncover this link. In the meantime, individuals suffering from both conditions should remember that treating both of them together is the best way to ensure maximum recovery.