Fibromyalgia and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Fibromyalgia is a non-life threatening condition but one that causes significant pain, debilitation and a feeling of fatigue as well as lots of tender points, where even the slightest touch can trigger pain that is disproportionate to the level of pressure applied. Patients often complain that the condition makes it hard for them to sleep and that they waken up feeling exhausted and yet to a large extent, little is known about this condition.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a condition that affects the bowels and digestive tract with people feeling dyspepsia (indigestion) and bowel habits that are often characterised by diarrhoea or flatulence. This is a relatively common condition but there is a lot still unknown about exactly what causes IBS and how it can be effectively managed. So to some extent it has something in common with fibromyalgia.
However, recent studies suggest that people with IBS may experience other medical conditions, which have nothing to do with the bowel or stomach. Fibromyalgia is one of these conditions, with some studies suggesting that between 35 and 77% of patients with fibromyalgia also have IBS and that of the people who are diagnosed with IBS some 20 to 65% will also have fibromyalgia. So there is definitely an overlap there.
Both fibromyalgia and IBS are very complex conditions that do not have a definitive cause or cure. There is no one reason why people develop either condition and there is no one single cure that can eradicate either condition.
In fact so complex are these conditions that it is not even known why people with fibromyalgia may be more likely to experience IBS. Stress is a factor in both, but stress is not the defining cause so although it has a part to play it is not the single reason why either condition develops.
Both these conditions also vary enormously from one patient to the next and people will definitely have different experiences of having one or both of the conditions. Again this adds to the complexity of the situation.
Living With Both IBS and Fibromyalgia
IBS is notoriously difficult to treat (as is fibromyalgia), but it is reported that only 50% of patients with IBS find any relief from medication prescribed by their doctor, many carry on with the condition being present and little ameliorating it.
Whilst this is very difficult for anyone to live with it can be even worse for people who have fibromyalgia because there is a psychological implication in terms of living with both conditions. It can almost feel as if your body is conspiring against you. Not only do you have the fatigue, pain and tiredness associated with fibromyalgia, but you often have the discomfort and associated pain that comes with IBS. Little wonder that people can feel overwhelmed by feelings of being unable to cope with both conditions at the same time, even though neither are life threatening.
Hope For The Future
Although there is no one cure and each condition requires a specialist consultant, being able to gain control of the fibromyalgia can significantly improve your overall condition because the fibromyalgia is alleviated and therefore the IBS is the only debilitating condition that you experience. The medication sodium ox bate or botox and other treatments can all be highly effective when it comes to treating fibromyalgia.
Whilst it would be great to tackle both conditions at once, it is actually more efficient to start off treating the fibromyalgia through pain relief and the IBS can then be treated by a specialist in digestive issues. It is not a complete cure, but at least it allows patients to experience a better quality of life, with only one condition to worry about.