Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is a neurogenetic disorder affecting 1 in 3000 people worldwide, where individuals are prone to develop benign and malignant tumors. In addition, many people with NF1 complain of pain that limits their daily functioning. Due to the complexity of the disorder, there are few options for treating pain symptoms besides surgery and medications. Moreover, the spectrum of pain symptomatology and treatment, as well as the mechanisms underlying NF1-associated pain, has been understudied.
To address this knowledge gap, we conducted a survey of 255 adults with NF1, leveraging the Washington University NF1 Patient Registry Initiative (NPRI) database. Demographic and pain data were collected using a Qualtrics survey.
All participants had at least one surgical procedure, with 55% reporting having at least one surgery within the last year and 17% being currently prescribed opioid medication. A positive relationship was shown ( p<0.001) between those prescribed prescription pain medication, and their pain severity and interference. Moreover, there was a significant relationship ( p=0.049) between the usage of complementary treatments and pain severity and interference.
The current study demonstrates that individuals with NF1 report a higher incidence of pain severity and interference than observed in NF1 previous studies, with pain symptoms not localized to any specific region of the body. The consideration for alternative treatments and careful monitoring of current treatments that are more conservative or have less potential adverse side effects may improve pain management and reduce the risk of developing medication dependence.