Family study of fibromyalgia

Arthritis Rheum. 2004 Mar;50(3):944-52. doi: 10.1002/art.20042.


Objective: To assess for familial aggregation of fibromyalgia (FM) and measures of tenderness and pain, and for familial coaggregation of FM and major mood disorder (major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder).

Methods: Probands meeting the American College of Rheumatology criteria for FM and control probands with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and no lifetime diagnosis of FM were recruited from consecutive referrals to 2 community-based rheumatology practices. Probands were ages 40-55 years and had at least 1 first-degree relative age 18 years or older who was available for interview and examination. All probands and interviewed relatives underwent a dolorimeter tender point examination and a structured clinical interview. Interviewed relatives were asked about first-degree relatives who were not available for interview, using a structured family interview. Logistic and linear regression models, adjusting for the correlation of observation within families, were applied to study the aggregation and coaggregation effects.

Results: Information was collected for 533 relatives of 78 probands with FM and 272 relatives of 40 probands with RA. FM aggregated strongly in families: the odds ratio (OR) measuring the odds of FM in a relative of a proband with FM versus the odds of FM in a relative of a proband with RA was 8.5 (95% confidence interval [95% CI] 2.8-26, P = 0.0002). The number of tender points was significantly higher, and the total myalgic score was significantly lower in the relatives of probands with FM compared with the relatives of probands with RA. FM coaggregated significantly with major mood disorder: the OR measuring the odds of major mood disorder in a relative of a proband with FM versus the odds of major mood disorder in a relative of a proband with RA was 1.8 (95% CI 1.1-2.9, P = 0.013).

Conclusion: FM and reduced pressure pain thresholds aggregate in families, and FM coaggregates with major mood disorder in families. These findings have important clinical and theoretical implications, including the possibility that genetic factors are involved in the etiology of FM and in pain sensitivity. In addition, mood disorders and FM may share some of these inherited factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bipolar Disorder / complications
  • Bipolar Disorder / genetics*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / complications
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / genetics*
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia / complications
  • Fibromyalgia / epidemiology
  • Fibromyalgia / genetics*
  • Fibromyalgia / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Prevalence