Clinical research discovers: Fibromyalgia linked to hysterectomy, gynecological disease: also linked to endocrine and autoimmune disorders

Did you have gynecological surgery, such as a hysterectomy, in the years leading up to fibromyalgia?

It’s a trend that some people have noticed, and a study published in 2015 underpins the link between these types of surgeries and the onset of fibromyalgia. It also provides further evidence for an association between fibromyalgia and common overlapping conditions that are gynecological, endocrine, or autoimmune.

The results

In the study, the researchers reviewed the lists of 219 women with fibromyalgia and 116 women with chronic pain not related to fibromyalgia. Specifically, they examined the time elapsed between the onset of the disease and gynecological surgery, as well as the number of overlapping conditions in each group.

They also found that each of the three types of diagnoses they looked at was independently associated with fibromyalgia. Thyroid disease and gynecologic surgery were significantly more common in women with fibromyalgia than those with other types of chronic pain.

The timing of gynecological surgeries in relation to the onset of pain was especially interesting. They found more surgeries in the years just before the fibromyalgia pain started, or in the year after the pain started. This pattern was unique to the fibromyalgia group.

At first glance, it may seem strange that gynecological surgeries in the year after the onset of pain is considered related to the development of fibromyalgia.

However, such an association may be due to several pertinent factors.

For example, consider that many women have gynecological problems long before opting for surgery as their preferred treatment. Hormonal changes or gynecologic disease may be risk factors for fibromyalgia due to some underlying relationship that we don’t yet understand.

According to the study, hysterectomies and oophorectomies (removal of the ovaries) were most likely within four years before or after the onset of fibromyalgia pain.

This is certainly an area that requires more research. In the end, it could help us understand why 90 percent of fibromyalgia patients are women. Beyond that, it can reveal physiological changes that can trigger the development of the disease, which could lead to better treatments and possibly even prevention.

For women who develop fibromyalgia after gynecologic surgery, we also need to know what role, if any, the surgery itself plays, as well as the possible roles of hormonal changes caused by the surgery. Post-surgical hormone replacement therapy is also worth a look.

Previous research

Doctors have long suspected that fibromyalgia has strong hormonal and trigger links. A 2013 study found links between early menopause and increased sensitivity to pain in fibromyalgia patients, which may be related to decreased estrogen levels.

Women with fibromyalgia are especially prone to painful menstrual periods (dysmenorrhea) and certain pregnancy complications.

My experience

This study really speaks from my own experience. I was 34 when my youngest son was born by cesarean section and 35 when I stopped breastfeeding. The hormonal changes from that, according to my gynecologist, threw me into premature perimenopause.

My menstrual cycle became erratic and the periods were extremely heavy and painful, whereas they had always been regular and fairly mild. Fibromyalgia symptoms soon followed.

Six months later, I was diagnosed and identified a pattern: my rashes occurred regularly between ovulation and the start of my period. My gynecologist recommended endometrial ablation to get rid of the hormones discouraged by the thickening of the uterus.

The ablation not only put an end to painful periods (and periods in general), but it removed the edge of my rashes and reduced them to less distance. (Learn more about my personal journey on the thrown course: Fibromyalgia Comes Into My Life.)

I hadn’t had a hysterectomy, but between two pregnancies and two cesarean sections, in addition to breastfeeding, my body had clearly gone through a hormonal tone.

I suspect that research will continue to confirm the links between fibromyalgia and hormonal changes, and I hope that one day we will be better equipped to recognize, treat, and prevent hormone-related fibromyalgia.


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