Healthy Living

The Complex Connection Between Memory Loss and Fibromyalgia

The Complex Connection Between Memory Loss and Fibromyalgia

Most people are well-aware of the physically painful symptoms of fibromyalgia, but memory loss is a lesser known symptom that those with fibromyalgia have to live with.  Memory loss is a symptom that often worries patients more so than the actual pain. What makes this aspect of the illness even scarier is that it isn’t what the average person expects when they hear “fibromyalgia.”

Many patients with fibromyalgia have expressed concerns about their cognitive, or mental, symptoms, including issues like short and long term memory failure, shortened or weakened attention span, and difficulty finding the right words to use when they’re talking or writing.

According to NFMCPA, or the National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association, which is a global community offering support, advocacy, education and research, they have done research that shows that there is “a cognitive dysfunction in [fibromyalgia] patients.” While people who have fibromyalgia know this very well, it is an incredibly important finding for fibromyalgia treatment. Although people with fibromyalgia may tell their doctor about these cognitive symptoms, many medical professionals must consider the possibility of confusing these normal, everyday lapses in cognition for a more serious health issue.

However, the NFMCPA found that their patients perform worse than their age- and education-matched controls on tests of a variety of cognitive functions. So, for example, a person with fibromyalgia, when given a list of words to remember and recall later, did not remember as many as their age- and education- matched control test says is normal. Additionally, the NFMCPA found that people with fibromyalgia also did not perform well on tests that measured their working memory.

Working memory is a person’s ability to remember something briefly while they use that information for a different mental process. An example of working memory is when a person performs complicated mental math, like multiplying two large numbers. Moreover, the patients tested earned lower scores on vocabulary tests. They also scored lower verbal fluency tests, where a person is shown a letter and is asked to write down as many words as possible that start with that letter. This test measures how quickly a person can access their stored knowledge of words.

Interestingly, the cognitive performance of their patients with fibromyalgia was more in-line with adults two decades older than them. Their research on aging shows that every ten years, the memory worsens. The results they found with their fibromyalgia patients showed that they were cognitively twenty years older in terms of their performance on some tasks.

Read on to learn more about this significant finding between memory loss and fibromyalgia.