Arthritis & Rheumatism, Volume 62,
November 2010 Abstract Supplement

Abstracts of the American College of
Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals
Annual Scientific Meeting
Atlanta, Georgia November 6-11, 2010.

Fibromyalgia Patients Often Visit Many Physicians before Receiving a Diagnosis.

Katz2,  Robert S., Polyak1,  Jessica L., Kwan,  Lauren

Rheumatology Associates
Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL


Fibromyalgia patients see many types of medical professionals and often have difficulty obtaining a diagnosis. This study utilized on-line and written surveys to investigate the number and types of health professionals consulted before receiving a diagnosis of the fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). To avoid confounding by gender, only female patients were included in the analyses.


606 self-described female fibromyalgia patients responded to a survey through the community volunteer fibromyalgia organization, AFFTER (Advocates for Fibromyalgia Funding, Treatment, Education and Research). Respondents were asked about who had diagnosed their fibromyalgia and the number of physicians they had seen for fibromyalgia symptoms before reaching a diagnosis. Spearman correlations were obtained to assess linear relationships between non-categorical variables.


Respondents were predominately middle-aged (58% aged 36–55) and Caucasian (91%). Fifty percent were diagnosed with fibromyalgia by rheumatologists, 13% by internists, 4% by neurologists, 26% by other physicians, and 2% by chiropractors. Only 30% of patients obtained a diagnosis after seeing 1 or 2 physicians, while 24% saw 7 or more physicians before being diagnosed, and 10% saw 11 or more physicians before being diagnosed. A statistically significant, negative correlation was found between the number of physicians seen before reaching a diagnosis and how well the respondent coped with fibromyalgia (rho =-0.14, p = 0.001). In addition, statistically significant, positive correlations were found between the number of physicians seen before reaching a diagnosis and the amount of pain (rho = 0.16, p < 0.001) and fatigue (rho = 0.16, p < 0.001) experienced during an average week and the total number of areas with pain or tenderness (rho = 0.17, p < 0.001).


Most fibromyalgia patients saw at least three physicians before receiving a diagnosis, and a quarter went to at least 7 doctors for fibromyalgia related symptoms before obtaining a diagnosis. Larger numbers of physicians seen before reaching the diagnosis of FMS was associated with worse symptoms and worse ability to cope with fibromyalgia. Those with more intense symptoms tended to 'doctor shop' looking for a diagnosis they could understand. Rheumatologists made the diagnosis much more often than other physicians. Better education of non-rheumatologists in the diagnosis of fibromyalgia and more acceptance of the diagnostic criteria in the general medical community would help patients with fibromyalgia receive an earlier diagnosis.

To cite this abstract, please use the following information:
Katz, Robert S., Polyak, Jessica L., Kwan, Lauren; Fibromyalgia Patients Often Visit Many Physicians before Receiving a Diagnosis. [abstract]. Arthritis Rheum 2010;62 Suppl 10 :2074
DOI: 10.1002/art.29839

Abstract Supplement

Meeting Menu