How does fibromyalgia affect the eyes
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How does fibromyalgia affect the eyes

An estimated 1.1 million Canadians are affected by fibromyalgia, a chronic condition that causes widespread pain in the body, particularly in the joints, muscles and soft tissues. May 12th is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, which is intended to bring both the public’s and doctors’ attention to this chronic pain syndrome.

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is complicated, and scientists are still researching potential causes. Current medicine has discovered that fibromyalgia affects both the nervous and musculoskeletal systems, and many people who endure the fibromyalgia also experience discomforts like tension headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression.

Interestingly enough, this syndrome bears some striking similarities to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Research has shown that a traumatic experience can be the potential cause for the onset of both. The two conditions are also known to sensitize the nervous system, creating the same sensation of pain. In addition, many doctors believe that those who develop fibromyalgia are highly likely to exhibit symptoms of PTSD, and vice versa.

Risk factors for fibromyalgia

Certain elements increase your risk for getting this disease. The sex assigned at birth, for instance, is the leading one, as 80 – 90% of patients are women. Family history is another. If a parent, brother or sister has the conditions, the chances of you also being affected increases. Also, if you have another disorder like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus, it is more likely that you develop symptoms of fibromyalgia.

How to diagnose fibromyalgia

Diagnosing this condition has never been an easy task. In the past, doctors would typically exert pressure on 18 tender points approximately the size of a penny, located at different places around the body. If a patient had tenderness in at least 11 of the 18 spots, then they were officially diagnosed with it. Since 2010, doctors mainly rely on a set of laboratory tests that rule out other causes of pain, fatigue and sleep disturbances.


There is not one way for treating fibromyalgia. In fact, it is a combination of treatments (self-care and medication) that lead to the ultimate goal: reduce pain and improve the person’s overall health. Medications like over-the-counter pain relievers, antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs are usually used and produce promising results. In contrast, opioids aren’t recommended, as they bring about undesired side effects. Physical and occupational therapy, as well as counseling, help by reducing the impact this condition has on the individual’s day-to-day activities. In combination with medication, it can provide sustainable relief.

Overall, the condition is unique to each person affected, which sometimes makes it difficult to identify. One person might experience pain primarily in their hips, while another may experience headaches. Some people may also have pain or trouble with their eyes and vision as part of this condition.

How does fibromyalgia affect the eyes?

Since fibromyalgia affects the body’s nervous system, the six main muscles in the eye that control its movement can possibly suffer its effects. The condition makes the body’s nerves more sensitive, which could cause some of the following eye health problems:

Dry Eyes

A relatively common eye problem due to fibromyalgia is dry eyes. The mucous membranes in the nose, mouth, and eyes can dry up. Dry eyes can be especially uncomfortable for people who wear contact lenses. Using eye drops with vitamin A can help to keep your eyes moist and alleviate discomfort.

Blurred or double vision

Patients experiencing visual effects of fibromyalgia could have trouble focusing their vision. Some have trouble focusing while driving, reading, or during other daily activities. Additionally, their visual acuity can fluctuate—one day they may not have any trouble with their vision, and the next their vision may be so blurred that they struggle to read. In fact, some patients have such frequent changes in their vision that they are constantly updating their lens prescriptions. The best way to stay on top of your vision problems is to visit your optometrist whenever you notice a change; they will help you manage your symptoms and find the best treatment plan for you.

Dry Eyes

Some fibromyalgia sufferers can be light sensitive, causing pain and making them squint in otherwise normal lighting conditions. For many, this sensitivity can cause difficulty both inside and outside—some wear sunglasses in both settings because the pain and discomfort are too much without them. You can also speak to your optometrist about getting special glasses for driving or looking at a computer screen.

Floaters and flashes

Floaters look like small spots or threads that pop up in your field of vision. People with fibromyalgia can be more prone to these, but generally shouldn’t be concerned unless they suddenly see a lot at the same time.

Similar to when you have a migraine, some people with fibromyalgia will see floaters and flashes in their line of vision. This can be alarming, especially when you know there is no light source nearby that’s causing it. It’s important to speak with your doctor about these symptoms.

Allowing yourself enough sleep will help your eyes rest and potentially reduce the stress they are under throughout the day. Sometimes closing your eyes periodically throughout the day could also help reduce fibromyalgia-related stress in your eyes.

If you have fibromyalgia and are concerned about changes in your vision health, make an appointment with an optometrist at your nearest FYidoctors location.