Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes chronic pain throughout the body. Many experts believe fibromyalgia causes the brain to sense higher pain levels, but the exact cause is unknown. It may also cause:
Some believe fibromyalgia could be classified as an autoimmune disease because many of the symptoms overlap with those of autoimmune disorders. But without sufficient evidence showing that fibromyalgia produces autoantibodies or causes harm to surrounding tissues, it’s difficult to prove this claim.
Discovering the cause of fibromyalgia might allow doctors to find improved preventive measures and better treatment options focused on alleviating pain symptoms. Read on to learn more.
What’s an autoimmune disease?
In autoimmune disorders, the body begins to attack itself as the immune system mistakenly identifies healthy cells as a dangerous virus or harmful bacteria. In response, your body makes autoantibodies that destroy healthy cells. The attack causes damage to tissues and often inflammation at the affected site.
Fibromyalgia doesn’t qualify as an autoimmune disorder because it doesn’t cause inflammation. There also isn’t any sufficient evidence indicating fibromyalgia causes damage to bodily tissues.
Fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar or associated with other conditions, including some autoimmune disorders. In many cases, fibromyalgia can occur simultaneously with autoimmune disorders.
Common conditions associated with fibromyalgia pain include:
- rheumatoid arthritis
- restless leg syndrome
- Lyme disease
- temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders
- myofascial pain syndrome
Some autoimmune disorders and fibromyalgia have similar symptoms and characteristics. It’s not uncommon to have fibromyalgia pain and an autoimmune disease at the same time. This can make it confusing when considering if fibromyalgia is an autoimmune disease.
A 2007 study suggested that there are high levels of thyroid antibodies in patients with fibromyalgia. However, presence of thyroid antibodies aren’t uncommon and may sometimes exhibit no symptoms.
A 2013 study linked pain caused by fibromyalgia to small nerve fiber neuropathy. However, this association isn’t yet widely accepted. There is, however, strong data linking small nerve fiber neuropathy and Sjogren’s syndrome. This condition causes painful damage to your nerves. But more research is needed to accurately link both fibromyalgia and small nerve fiber neuropathy.
Though research suggests some relationship with autoimmunity, there’s not enough evidence to classify fibromyalgia as an autoimmune disorder.
Though it has similar characteristics and symptoms, fibromyalgia isn’t classified as an autoimmune disorder. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t a real condition.
If you have questions about your fibromyalgia or want to stay up to date on the latest research, contact your doctor. Following the latest updates can help you to find more ways to cope with your symptoms.