Understanding Fibromyalgia Eye Pain: Causes & Management Strategies

Are you experiencing eye pain as part of your fibromyalgia symptoms?

Understanding fibromyalgia eye pain is crucial to finding relief. In this article, we unpack the different types of eye pain symptoms you may be experiencing and offer solutions to relieve them. So you can walk away with a better understanding of how to deal with this pain and other fibromyalgia symptoms.

What is the connection between fibromyalgia syndrome & eye pain?

Fibromyalgia syndrome, commonly recognized as a widespread pain syndrome, affects numerous dimensions of an person's daily experience. Notably, a study found that 67% of people who live with fibromyalgia report having eye pain1.

Fibromyalgia is linked to central sensitization, a disorder state of the central nervous system in which the body is on high alert. In this state, the nervous system can misinterpret normal stimuli as dangerous, as respond with pain in an affect to keep you safe. Because the central nervous system covers the whole body, symptoms of fibromyalgia can also appear across the whole body.

As well as central sensitization, it's possible that some people's eye pain can have additional impacting factors.

  • Neuropathic pain syndrome: Some people show a decreased density of small nerve fibers in skin biopsies, and if linked to the eyes, it could cause ocular symptoms1.
  • Autoimmune response: Research highlighted in Survey of Ophthalmology indicates that in people with fibromyalgia-related changes in the eye, such as thinning of the choroid and a reduction in the thickness of the retinal nerve fiber layer, autoimmune processes may be to blame2.

Regardless of the cause, what is evident is that fibromyalgia comes with a variety of eye-related symptoms, including:

  • persistent eye dryness
  • blurred vision
  • the sensation of a foreign object in the eye when there is none
  • sensitivity to light
  • difficulty maintaining a steady focus.

Dry eye syndrome & fibromyalgia

Among individuals diagnosed with fibromyalgia, dry eye syndrome is quite common. A study published in the journal Dry Eye Disease found that 62% of patients with fibromyalgia had dry eyes3.

Research suggests a link between fibromyalgia and an underlying inflammatory process. This may contribute to tear dysfunction and dry eyes2.

Fortunately, there are several strategies to mitigate this symptom, including using artificial tears, inserting punctual plugs, reassessing exacerbating medications, and anti-inflammatory medications, and using humidifiers to add moisture to the environment.

Dry eyes can also make it difficult to wear contact lenses as there is a lack of moisture in your eyes. When there is discomfort wearing contacts, opting for glasses instead may help alleviate these symptoms.

Blurred vision & foreign body sensation

Blurred vision is a common symptom in the eyes of someone with fibromyalgia. In fact, research has found that changes in small nerve fiber morphology could be contributing to the symptom of blurred vision2.

Some people with fibromyalgia experience changes in how clearly they see and may even experience double vision. This can fluctuate over time. Because of this, your eyeglass prescription might need to be adjusted more frequently. Having a few different pairs of glasses to accommodate these changes may be something your healthcare professional may recommend.

Sensitivity to light

Many people with fibromyalgia experience light sensitivity, which is also known as photophobia. This means that regular lighting can feel uncomfortable or even cause severe pain to your eyes. You might find yourself squinting or needing sunglasses even on cloudy days or indoors under bright lights, like fluorescents.

Your eye pain may be caused by pain in the upper back or neck

Eye pain associated with fibromyalgia isn’t solely confined to the eye area. Tension in the upper back and neck areas may contribute significantly as well. This tension can lead to headaches and a sensitivity at the skull’s base, ultimately causing pain that travels across the skull and manifests within the eye sockets.

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How to treat fibromyalgia-related eye pain

Addressing fibromyalgia-related eye pain requires a holistic approach. At MoreGoodDays®, we want to help you learn ways to make pain happen less often, feel less strong, and not affect your life as much. When you look at your fibromyalgia from all sides – not just the physical part – you can start to get everything in your body working together so that you can feel better and have less eye pain.

In might sound strange, but the best treatment includes addressing any psychological aspects of your fibromyalgia and using medication to handle severe pain, without relying on it as your only treatment. So, we think about pain in a way that includes your body, mind, and the world around you.

Pain isn't just about physical hurt; it's also about how you think, how you feel, and what's happening in your life. In fact, pain comes from lots of different places. Factors such as stress, what you believe, and what you do, can change how much pain you feel. It's possible to retrain your pain response using techniques such as:

  • Exercise and movement: Engaging in regular physical activity has been shown to decrease average pain levels and enhance emotional wellbeing, while also benefiting muscle and joint health. Adding even minor movements into your routine and minimizing prolonged sitting can have a substantial positive impact.
  • Psychology and stress reduction: These modalities assist you in building resilience and soothing your nervous system, which can lead to better pain management and enhanced quality of life.
  • Sleep: By identifying the factors that contribute to fatigue and strategically planning your activities, you can better manage your energy levels. Adopting effective sleep hygiene techniques can also promote restorative sleep, aiding in pain alleviation.

Understanding that each person’s journey with fibromyalgia is unique, we offer individualized support from our team of coaches and clinicians. They provide customized advice to ensure that the strategies you implement are specifically suited to your needs.

Medications

Medications should be considered as complementary tools that enhance the effectiveness of other therapeutic methods, rather than as the sole remedy for managing pain. This mean that medicine can take the edge off of your symptoms, so that you can try movement, therapy, or other long term treatments.

Common over-the-counter pain relievers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can provide temporary relief from discomfort, and your healthcare provider might suggest additional prescriptions to integrate into your comprehensive pain management plan.

Incorporating medication as an adjunct to psychological or physical rehabilitation strategies can contribute to more enduring improvements in managing your pain and transforming your body's response to it over time.

More information

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