Fibromyalgia can be a difficult disease to understand. The short definition of fibromyalgia is that it is a common musculoskeletal condition that includes chronic pains around the body and also often includes fatigue and anxiety.
Currently, experts believe that this is due to a dysregulation of the immune system but they don’t believe it is cause by autoimmune problems. However, research groups are beginning to look father into this possibility.
The answer to this question is actually pretty straightforward. But it requires a little more background to fully explain why the current answer researchers have found is correct.
Autoimmune Just Means Something in The Immune System, Right?
While an autoimmune condition does deal with the immune system, it is a little bit different. An autoimmune condition means that your immune system will identify a typical healthy part of your body and think it is a virus.
If you know even a little bit of the immune system, you will know this isn’t good. If you don’t, your immune system develops antibodies to protect against dangerous or foreign bacteria within your body. Then it will send these antibodies out to eliminate the threat.
See how bad an autoimmune condition really can be now?
So How Can We Tell That Fibromyalgia Isn’t an Autoimmune Disease?
A major characterization of autoimmune diseases is inflammation, due to incredibly reactive T lymphocytes. This is a type of immune cell that helps fight against infection, and the inflammation comes about as a natural immune response.
In the majority of people with fibromyalgia, there aren’t often signs of increased inflammation, typical autoimmune damage done to the body, or the discovery of autoantibodies.
On the other hand, there is often an overlap between fibromyalgia and some autoimmune conditions. This shows that there is a potential risk of developing fibromyalgia by having autoimmune issues.
These conditions include things like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Hasimoto’s autoimmune thyroiditis.
With the conditions listed in the section above, we can put together a list of similarities between fibromyalgia and autoimmune conditions. These similarities include:
- Symptoms being similar
- Difficult to diagnose
- Poor understanding of the condition
- Classification of rheumatic, although fibromyalgia is actually a neurological condition.
There is still a lot of research that needs to be done to find out more about these conditions. Fibromyalgia is still being researched so new information still has the possibility of popping up at any moment.
Current Findings on Potentials Causes
While there is still research being done to look farther into the disease, there are still some facts that researchers have found that I believe will be important to know.
Some research shows particular nerve structures (i.e. the optic nerve) can be damaged due to this disorder.
Currently it does not appear as evidence of there being an autoimmune issue, but there would need to be more research in order to find out.
There is currently no known cause for fibromyalgia. However, researchers and doctors agree that there are many potential reasons why it is caused.
These potential reasons range from emotional trauma to physical injuries. Because of this, it is now fairly common for someone to call fibromyalgia a neuroimmune disorder.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Those who have fibromyalgia often show various brain chemical and hormonal abnormalities. However, there isn’t any particular pattern amongst patients in this regard, so there is still research that needs to be done to see if the imbalances do come from the disorder or if they come from another disease.
In any case, those with fibromyalgia often experience things such as:
- Lowered serotonin levels and activity
- Lowered norepinephrine and cortisol levels, which typically leads to poor responses to physical or psychological stressors
- Up to three times the typical level of substance P, which normally ends up related to the increased pain perception
- Lowered levels of IFG-1, which is what promotes bone and muscle growth
- Lower amounts of opioid receptor activity in areas of your brain that would regulate your mood and any emotion that would be tied to pain
While these symptoms are shared by some who have fibromyalgia, it is not incredibly common amongst these people.
But currently, fibromyalgia only can group particular symptoms together that are commonly found in those who suffer from this disorder. Essentially, there isn’t just one pattern that demonstrates you have fibromyalgia or not.
Some incredibly common shared symptoms and overlapping conditions amongst people who suffer from fibromyalgia include:
- Aches, stiffness, and radiating or widespread pain
- Sleep disorders
- Pain that moves across the body to an area that isn’t associated with any damage
- Lowered cognitive abilities
- Restless leg syndrome
- Lowered pain threshold, which leads to pain from things like light pressure
- Unrefreshing sleep that only furthers you fatigue
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Despite there not being a lot of information about the cause of fibromyalgia, there is enough information to see what people who have this disorder share.
So What’s the Answer? Can Fibromyalgia Be an Autoimmune Disease?
The purpose of the last sections of this article were to showcase exactly what is known about fibromyalgia as of this very moment. That’s because the answer to the question is basically this:
No, it’s not an autoimmune disease. However, some have displayed traits associated with having an autoimmune disease and it is possible some of the current symptoms actually emerge from issues within the immune system.
A lot of research will need to be done in order to come to a better conclusion. There are a lot of aspects about this disease that need to be explored.
It also appears as if there needs to be more intensive research done to discover a pattern amongst those who suffer with this disorder so that researchers can more quickly and accurately figure out the causes. It may not be possible to do this for many years.
In any case, hopefully this article helped answer your questions about fibromyalgia and what really qualifies as an autoimmune disease. Let us know what you thought of it!