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Modified fibromyalgia criteria greatly affect diagnosis

Lana Bandoim's picture

Three sets of criteria from the American College of Rheumatology are at the center of a new debate. The 1990, 2010 and modified 2010 criteria established guidelines for diagnosing fibromyalgia. However a new study reveals that using the modified 2010 version doubles the number of people who should be diagnosed.


Researchers from the University of Aberdeen compared the three sets of criteria and discovered that each one produced different results. By using the modified 2010 guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology, 5.4 percent of the patients would be diagnosed with fibromyalgia. On the other hand, using the 1990 criteria leads to 1.7 percent of the patients being diagnosed with this condition. Researchers also noted that more men are included under the modified 2010 criteria.

Which set of guidelines is correct and should be followed? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is part of the debate. In general, the American College of Rheumatology recommends using the most up-to-date information to diagnose a patient. However, there are concerns that the new modified guidelines are relying too much on self-reporting and could be improved. Are the criteria leading to inflated numbers and making the prevalence of fibromyalgia seem higher than reality? According to researchers at the University of Aberdeen, this is a possibility considering each set produces completely different results.

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Patients suffering from fibromyalgia frequently complain about the difficulty of getting an accurate diagnosis, and constantly changing guidelines does not help. The condition has multiple symptoms that can lead to confusion with other disorders. Dr. Frederick Wolfe, who is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita, summarizes the issues.

Dr. Wolfe states, “One of the problems with fibromyalgia is that people may be identified on the basis of behavioral symptoms. People who are having more pain or being more deliberate in demonstrating to observers that they have pain, or having more complaints that seem a little bit more severe, tend to be identified more easily as having fibromyalgia. Whereas, people who have the same disorder but aren’t as demonstrative about it may be missed.”

Read more about fibromyalgia:
Memantine drug shows promise for fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia study focuses on brain stimulation to fight pain