Drivers with fibromyalgia are more likely to suffer serious traffic accidents: study

Sheryl Ubelacker, The Canadian Press

Research suggests that drivers who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia appear to be at high risk of being involved in car accidents, even years after their initial diagnosis.

A study published in the July issue of the Journal of Rheumatology found that people with fibromyalgia had more than twice the risk of suffering a serious car accident that sent them to a hospital emergency room, compared to the population of drivers in general.

“We are not analyzing the type of defenses,” said lead researcher Dr. Donald Redelmeier, senior scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluation Sciences (ICES) in Toronto.

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that affects at least 400,000 Canadians, but the numbers can be much higher. The condition, which disrupts nerve function, causes fluctuating symptoms, such as muscle pain, fatigue, insomnia and joint stiffness.

There is no known cure, but symptoms can be treated with medications, lifestyle changes and stress management. The exact cause is unknown, but in some cases, the trauma caused by a car accident has been linked to the subsequent onset of symptoms.

Using hospital and other records, the study examined 137,631 adults in Ontario with fibromyalgia between April 1, 2006 and March 31, 2012.

Patients accounted for 1,566 serious car accidents during the year prior to their diagnosis, the study found. In the year following a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, the group was involved in 738 traffic collisions.

Redelmeier said that these patients did not necessarily cause accidents (the analysis did not consider the failure) and that there was no way to determine if symptoms such as pain, stiffness and fatigue could make it more difficult to “avoid a crash that was created by Someone else.”

“Many studies have examined fibromyalgia as a result of a car accident. But this is the first one we know with the idea of ​​testing if it could be one of these underlying medical conditions that could contribute to a future car accident. ”

The study determined that the risk for drivers with fibromyalgia is approximately five accidents per 1,000 individuals per year, compared with two per 1,000 per year among the general population of drivers.

“And it was particularly high if the patient also had a coexisting psychiatric condition such as depression,” he added.

However, those who were receiving continuous or “dedicated” fibromyalgia care, including better rest, physical activity and treatment to improve sleep, depression and pain control, had a somewhat lower risk of harm.

“We discovered that it was effective,” Redelmeier said.

“It does not return these people to the norm of absolute population, but it seems to make a significant difference in reducing the risk of individuals from a serious car accident. So medical care could be effective in mitigating, but not completely normalizing, the dangers of roads. ”

Fibromyalgia is not among medical conditions, such as epilepsy and narcolepsy, included in driving patterns, but because it can cause functional impairment in some people, researchers suggest that doctors should consider reinforcing messages about road safety.

“If you have fibromyalgia, it doesn’t mean you can’t drive a car. But the standard safety suggestions would deserve reinforcement: always wear the seat belt, follow the speed limit, point out your turns and minimize distractions, ”said Redelmeier.

“And if you have fibromyalgia, don’t absolutely use a cell phone while driving. That is just a problem that invites. ”

Dr. John Pereira, a pain specialist at the University of Calgary, co-author of Canada’s fibromyalgia treatment guidelines in 2013, called the study “innovative research” that will lead to the necessary conversations about driving safety between doctors and fibromyalgia patients

“Some patients with this condition suffer from restful sleep and poor concentration during the day, which may explain the increased risk of traffic accidents,” said Pereira, who was not involved in the study.

“But we must also emphasize that hundreds of thousands of Canadians with fibromyalgia drive safely to work every day,” he said.

“Our challenge now is to proactively identify those patients for whom there is the greatest danger, since this study also showed that special attention Lifting fibromyalgia could help mitigate your risk. ”

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