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Is Fibromyalgia an Autoimmune Disorder?

Is Fibromyalgia an Autoimmune Disorder?

People with warning signs of fibromyalgia sometimes have symptoms of autoimmune and other disorders but diagnosing and treating the problem is difficult for those very reasons. A key question facing patients, healthcare providers, and researchers is whether or not fibromyalgia is an autoimmune disorder. It’s difficult to answer with any certainty.

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a long-term disorder resulting in symptoms like pain and tenderness in the body, fatigue, and problems sleeping. No one fully understands its cause, but those with it have a greater sensitivity to pain. It can affect anyone regardless of age or gender, but people with certain health conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis may be more susceptible to getting it.

Evidence for Fibromyalgia as an Autoimmune Disorder

The traditional viewpoint is that fibromyalgia, a chronic pain ailment commonly believed to start in the brain, might really be an autoimmune system disorder. That was the conclusion of a report in the Journal of Clinical Investigation — that numerous fibromyalgia symptoms are triggered by antibodies that boost activity levels of pain-sensing nerves in the body. The findings showed the antibodies seem to cause symptoms characteristic of fibromyalgia, like higher sensitivity to pain, pressure, and cold, plus muscle weakness, mobility issues, and fatigue typical of the disease.

Further research at King’s College London, the University of Liverpool, and the Karolinska Institute concluded that fibromyalgia is probably caused by an autoimmune disorder. Still, more investigation is needed to be certain.

The Autoimmune Association, however, has a different viewpoint. According to its researchers, “Fibromyalgia is NOT an autoimmune disease, however, it does accompany other autoimmune rheumatic and endocrine diseases.” Some such diseases are rheumatoid arthritis, whose symptoms attack body joints, and osteoporosis, which causes brittle bones.

There are many conflicting reports and studies about fibromyalgia, including what it is and how it starts. One of the biggest problems that researchers face is the lingering opinion that it doesn’t even exist, and that some medical professionals offer that opinion to their patients.

What causes Fibromyalgia?

No one knows the cause of fibromyalgia. Brain imaging studies and other investigations have shown evidence of transformed signaling in neural pathways responsible for transmitting and receiving pain in patients with the disease. Other research points to a genetic component as fibromyalgia appears to run in families. In any case, people with the condition are susceptible to fatigue, sleep disturbances, and cognitive problems.

What are Autoimmune Disorders?

According to experts at Johns Hopkins, Autoimmune disease happens if your body’s natural defense system can’t distinguish between your own cells and external cells, forcing the body to wrongly attack healthy cells. There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases that can harm nearly any part of the body, like alopecia areata or autoimmune hepatitis.

Are Symptoms of Fibromyalgia and Autoimmune Disorders Similar?

Like numerous medical problems, fibromyalgia and autoimmune disorders sometimes have symptoms that mimic one another, but there is no answer as to whether Fibromyalgia is an autoimmune disease. They share similar warning signs that someone who experiences either is intimately familiar with. These symptoms may include:

  • Chronic, widespread bodily pain
  • Overwhelming tiredness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Tenderness to touch
  • Greater sensitivity to light, sound, scents, and temperature
  • Redness, swelling, and heat sensations on various parts of the body

Diagnosis & Treatment Options

Fibromyalgia is diagnosed by measuring pain in any one of eighteen specific points on someone’s body. It may be confirmed by tests including a complete blood count, a Cyclic citrullinated peptide test, Thyroid function tests, and other diagnostic procedures. Autoimmune diseases like reactive arthritis are diagnosed by a medical professional through autoantibody tests, urinalysis, etc.

In both cases, a medical professional may recommend treatment which includes over-the-counter or prescription pain medicine, oral or intravenous vitamin supplements, physical or occupational therapy, diet and lifestyle changes, or ketamine therapy.

For people experiencing symptoms of fibromyalgia, there’s good news. A report by the U.S. National Institutes of Health concluded that long-term ketamine therapy offers relief of pain symptoms, perhaps highlighting the need for broader acceptance of specialists providing this kind of treatment. There’s also evidence that ketamine is effective in treating symptoms of autoimmune diseases.

Specialty Clinics Can Treat Fibromyalgia Symptoms

If you experience symptoms of fibromyalgia or an autoimmune disorder, talk to your healthcare provider about diagnosis and treatment options, and whether a local ketamine clinic can offer the relief you need.

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