Background: Fibromyalgia (FM) is a condition characterized by widespread pain and is estimated to affect 0.5-5% of the general population. Historically, it has been classified as a rheumatologic disorder, but patients consult physicians from a variety of specialties in seeking diagnosis and ultimately treatment. Patients report considerable delay in receiving a diagnosis after initial presentation, suggesting diagnosis and management of FM might be a challenge to physicians.
Methods: A questionnaire survey of 1622 physicians in six European countries, Mexico and South Korea was conducted. Specialties surveyed included primary care physicians (PCPs; n=809) and equal numbers of rheumatologists, neurologists, psychiatrists and pain specialists.
Results: The sample included experienced doctors, with an expected clinical caseload for their specialty. Most (>80%) had seen a patient with FM in the last 2 years. Overall, 53% of physicians reported difficulty with diagnosing FM, 54% reported their training in FM was inadequate, and 32% considered themselves not knowledgeable about FM. Awareness of American College of Rheumatology classification criteria ranged from 32% for psychiatrists to 83% for rheumatologists. Sixty-four percent agreed patients found it difficult to communicate FM symptoms, and 79% said they needed to spend more time to identify FM. Thirty-eight percent were not confident in recognizing the symptoms of FM, and 48% were not confident in differentiating FM from conditions with similar symptoms. Thirty-seven percent were not confident developing an FM treatment plan, and 37% were not confident managing FM patients long-term. In general, rheumatologists reported least difficulties/greatest confidence, and PCPs and psychiatrists reported greatest difficulties/least confidence.
Conclusions: Diagnosis and managing FM is challenging for physicians, especially PCPs and psychiatrists, but other specialties, including rheumatologists, also express difficulties. Improved training in FM and initiatives to improve patient-doctor communication are needed and may help the management of this condition.