A paper presented at the last annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in November 2014, showed that patients living with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia (FM) exhibited median rates of cognitive functioning that were significantly lower than that observed in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The patients with fibromyalgia also reported more instances of symptoms related to impairments in concentration.
The research highlighted in the paper was conducted by Robert S. Katz, MD, professor of Medicine at Rush University Medical Center and Northwestern Memorial Hospital . Dr. Katz is an award winning Rheumatologist who has spent his career advancing research conducted in the field of Rheumatology, for diseases such as FM, RA, and lupus. He has authored more than 250 publications of original studies on the causes and treatment of rheumatic diseases such as FM, RA, and lupus; is recognized for being part of the team that successfully tested the first biologic medicine for RA (Enbrel) in a clinical trial; and also as a catalyst in the field to change the criteria for the diagnosis of FM.
In this particular study, Dr. Katz and his team used survey methodology to administer a questionnaire to 211 patients with either FM or RA. They compared the differences in the answers associated with impaired mental functioning according to diagnoses of either FM or RA.
According to Dr. Katz, the biggest differences were observed in the patients’ tolerance of distraction by background noise, difficulty concentrating, trouble following conversations, poor reading comprehension and difficulty following directions. Other instances where FM patients reported higher levels of difficulty than their RA counterparts, included an inability to retain patterns when adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing; failure to recall known words; frustration when speaking; and difficulty expressing thoughts verbally.
The results of this study add to the body of knowledge in the field of Rheumatology that is giving irrefutable evidence to the potential for disabling cognitive side-effects occurring with an FM diagnosis. These are important findings for healthcare providers who treat patients with FM, because it highlights the specific needs these patients may have to help them successfully adjust to the potential cognitive impairments that may be a consequence of their diagnosis.