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ACR2013: Cognitive problems among fibromyalgia patients do not worsen over time or lead to anything resembling Alzheimer disease, a new study shows.
Reassuring news for your patients who have fibromyalgia: The condition may slow the brain somewhat, but the cognitive problems some patients call "fibrofog" do not represent the onset of gradually increasing dementia, according to new research from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Nor do they resemble early Alzheimer disease.
Rheumatologist Robert Katz MD and psychologist Frank Leavitt PhD, who have been studying fibrofog for years, gave a battery of cognitive tests to patients who have fibromyalgia (documented according to the latest clinical criteria) and have noticed cognitive difficulties for either less than a year (69 subjects) or more than 7 years (39 subjects). With one minor exception, there was no significant difference between the groups, they report in an abstract for the American College of Rheumatology annual meeting. The exception was a test that incorporated a set of skills that are a subset of skills included in another test in which the two groups showed no significant difference.
Not only is continued cognitive decline not a feature of fibromyalgia, the deficits do not resemble early Alzheimer disease (as many patients with fibromyalgia fear). Measures of episodic memory and processing speed, which are classic signs of preclinical Alzheimer disease, were in the normal range for both groups of subjects.