Familial Mediterranean Fever

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Familial Mediterranean Fever is a disorder passed down through families, which involves repeated fevers and inflammation that often affects the abdomen or lungs.

Symptoms of familial Mediterranean fever usually begin during childhood. In fact, 80 percent to 95 percent of all people diagnosed with FMF are younger than 20 years old. The signs and symptoms, collectively referred to as "attacks," often occur with little warning. Generally, the attacks last two to three days, reaching peak intensity within the first 12 hours. Typical signs and symptoms may include:

  • A sudden fever, ranging from about 100 to 104 F
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Achy, swollen joints
  • Constipation followed by diarrhea
  • A rash on your legs, especially below your knees

  • Less common signs and symptoms may include:
  • Muscle aches
  • Inflammation of the female reproductive organs
  • A swollen, tender scrotum
  • Inflammation of your blood vessels

  • Attacks usually occur sporadically, although some people report that vigorous exercise or stress provokes their attacks. Symptom-free periods may be as short as a week or as long as months. Between attacks, you'll likely feel normal.

    The cause of FMF is unknown. It usually affects people of Mediterranean ancestry, especially non-Ashkenazi Jews, Armenians, and Arabs, although people from other ethnic groups may also be affected.

    Symptoms usually begin between age 5 and 15. Inflammation in the lining of the abdominal cavity, chest cavity, skin, or joints occurs, along with high fevers that usually peak in 12 to 24 hours. Attacks may vary in severity of symptoms, and people are usually symptom free between attacks.

    This disease is very rare. Risk factors include a family history of familial Mediterranean fever or having Mediterranean ancestry.

    The most successful treatment for FMF is a drug called colchicines. There's no cure for the condition.

  • Colchicine therapy. Colchicine is a drug, usually taken as a pill, which reduces inflammation in your body. Some people might need to take just one dose a day, while others might require multiple doses. People who are able to "predict" an impending attack are often able to stop those attacks before they start by taking colchicine. However, taking colchicine after your symptoms appear is not effective.
    Sticking to your colchicine schedule is important because the drug will likely reduce the frequency and intensity of your symptoms. It also lowers your risk of complications, especially amyloidosis. Colchicine can cause side effects such as pain, tingling or numbness in your hands or feet, or muscle weakness, especially in older men who are heavy drinkers or whose kidneys aren't functioning properly. However, colchicine therapy is generally considered safe, even when taken over the course of years.

  • Dialysis or kidney transplantation. Before colchicine therapy was developed in 1972, people with familial Mediterranean fever often required dialysis, a procedure that removes wastes from the blood using special equipment, or kidney transplants because their kidneys eventually failed. Today, these two therapies are usually reserved for people who don't adhere to therapy or who can't tolerate colchicine.

  • In addition to medical therapy, you may find that the frequency and the severity of your symptoms lessen as you age or if you become pregnant. It's not certain why symptoms may improve at either of these times, but it may be related to changes in your immune system.

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    ...less medical jargon in a 'Quick Glance' format!