Does Fibromyalgia Weaken Your Immune System?
Do you experience chronic pain? Well, you’re definitely not alone. Count yourself among the 50 million U.S residents (1) who endure persistent pain. Deep muscle pain, painful tender points, and unending back and neck aches are all symptoms of fibromyalgia. The pain occurs because the condition impacts your muscles and tissues, leading to widespread chronic pain and tenderness.
For those seeking relief, finding help surely feels like a challenge. We at Advanced Pain Care have been helping patients dealing with this condition for many years now. We understand fibromyalgia and assist you in managing it effectively. We use a multipronged fibromyalgia pain treatment plan consisting of lifestyle changes, medications, and dietary revisions. Our effective treatment plans aid our patients in combating severe pain that strains their personal lives and damages their well-being.
Causes & Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
The exact cause(s) of Fibromyalgia is still unknown. But it’s been found that this condition is an outcome of a problem with the central nervous system’s processing of pain. Some probable causes of the illness include:
- Unusual pain signaling – In those with Fibromyalgia, the nervous system isn’t able to interpret pain signals normally. It’s because the brain, nerves, and spinal cord that carry these signals have abnormal levels of chemicals that make Fibromyalgia patients highly conscious of the painful sensations.
- Unbalanced hormones– Several hormones like dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin enable you to process pain. When their levels are lower in the nervous system and brain, it causes a disturbance in the pain signals. Your sensitivity to them becomes even greater.
- Inflammation due to cytokines – Cytokines are substances that the cells in the human body secrete. They are released into the immune system. These molecules have a massive role in inflammation. They’ve been linked to this painful condition.
- Genes– An undetected genetic abnormality in some people raises their vulnerability to this illness. So, the condition may pass on from one family member to another.
- Triggers – In our experience, Fibromyalgia symptoms start developing in people who’ve undergone a significant traumatic experience, either physical or mental. Those who’ve experienced a highly infectious illness also begin feeling the symptoms. Note that these triggers do not result in Fibromyalgia. They only trigger the illness by disturbing the response of the nervous system to the pain.
- Sleep disturbances – It’s still unknown whether sleep problems cause Fibromyalgia or are one of its symptoms. However, we find that people with sleep disorders like sleep apnea are at a higher likelihood of having Fibromyalgia.
- PTSD – Instances of Fibromyalgia are common among people like service members who also have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although Fibromyalgia is generally more common among women, in the case of service members, the condition has shown to affect more males.
- Lack of enough movement – Studies (2) have repeatedly revealed the connection between Fibromyalgia symptoms and physical inactivity like excessive sitting. A lack of activity results in persistent inflammation, and these are the factors that are present in this illness. That’s why we recommend patients increase their physical activity to an extent they can handle daily.
- Painful diseases like arthritis – In Fibromyalgia, pain originates from muscles and results in a general feeling of not being well. Women with a kind of spondyloarthritis (3) are highly vulnerable to developing this illness. Inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis also make a person more prone to this condition. It is because the consistent pain sensitizes the neurons in the body and triggers them to overreact to any stimulus.
As there is no precise cause of Fibromyalgia, its symptoms also do not begin suddenly. Instead, they appear over time in patients. Some key symptoms of the condition include:
- Fatigue – Fatigue in Fibromyalgia patients is the outcome of their body trying to manage pain. Even though they may get adequate sleep, they will still feel tired after waking up.
- Headaches – Frequent headaches are also a common symptom of Fibromyalgia. Different patients experience headaches of different intensities. Some may have severe migraines, while others only experience mild ones.
- Trouble focusing or paying attention – Difficulty in concentrating or ‘fibro fog’ renders patients unable to focus on a specific task.
- Depression – Chronic pain, which is what Fibromyalgia is all about, makes the sufferer feel depressed. Constant headache, neck and back pain, and hip and shoulder pain result in a feeling of depression in almost every patient.
- Insomnia – Insomnia is a common marker for the diagnosis of this condition. Consistent pain makes it difficult for the patient to sleep adequately. It, in turn, minimizes the pain threshold and aggravates the symptoms.
Various Risk Factors of Fibromyalgia
There are many risk factors for Fibromyalgia. Although people falling in any one of these categories have a higher likelihood of developing this condition, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will develop it.
- Age – Patients are often diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in their 20s or those in their middle ages. However, the chances of developing Fibromyalgia increases as you age.
- Gender – Women are more at risk of having Fibromyalgia. Their likelihood is nearly nine times more than men. The reason being the way females sense pain. Hormones like estrogen result in increased pain sensitivity in women.
- Pre-existing conditions like rheumatoid arthritis – Rheumatoid diseases impact the bones, muscles, and joints of a person. We’ve found that our patients with preexisting conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus are more vulnerable to developing Fibromyalgia. The main reason seems to be the inflammation which involves a part of the body becoming painful, swollen, and hot. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis usually have inflammation. Although fibromyalgia is not an inflammatory condition, this chronic inflammation can contribute to its onset.
- Obesity – As per the findings of the Arthritis Care & Research, obese or overweight women are at greater risk of developing this painful disorder. Thus, it’s important to include regular physical exercise to prevent becoming prone to Fibromyalgia.
- Repeated injuries – Injuries and infections like flu and pneumonia are also risk factors for this illness. Physical injuries like over-exertion, childbirth, neck injuries, and motor vehicle accidents are key risk factors for this condition.
Is Fibromyalgia an Autoimmune Disease?
Autoimmune disorders make your immune system either hyperactive or nearly inactive. If the immune system turns overactive, the body attacks its own tissues. In the case of the latter, your body loses its potential to fight infections and diseases.
In such a disease, the immune system starts producing antibodies to respond to an unknown stimulus. However, rather than keeping infections at bay, the antibodies that the immune system releases strike the tissues of the body. Some prominent examples of this disorder include rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes.
Fibromyalgia shares a lot of its symptoms with autoimmune disorders. In fact, many of our patients have both an autoimmune disease and Fibromyalgia pain. It tends to confuse people about whether Fibromyalgia is really an autoimmune disease or not.
A few years ago, Fibromyalgia was categorized as an arthritis-related condition. However, recent research reveals something else. It points out that in Fibromyalgia, the immune system does exhibit some irregularities like being persistently overactive. It is what makes many believe that Fibromyalgia is autoimmune. However, there’s a fine line of difference between the two.
In an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakenly attacks a specific tissue in the body by considering it dangerous. It, in turn, results in damage and inflammation in the impacted area. On the other hand, in Fibromyalgia, specific nerve structures are damaged. But we still don’t know how pervasive the damage is. Therefore, we cannot conclusively say that it is proof of autoimmunity.
Fibromyalgia Diagnosis & Treatment at APC in Austin, Texas
Fibromyalgia is a serious condition that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The chronic symptoms can impact the quality of life of the patient adversely. However, this doesn’t mean that getting effective relief is impossible.
At Advanced Pain Care, we diagnose fibromyalgia through specific tests like the cyclic citrullinated peptide test, Erythrocyte sedimentation rate test, and the thyroid function test. Our fibromyalgia treatment center specializes in creating personalized treatment options for this condition. Our team of pain doctors employs a multifaceted approach to treating this condition, which includes FDA-approved medications, self-care techniques, and result-driven lifestyle changes.
APCs pain management team works with the patient to create a treatment plan that’s fully based on the intensity of the condition. We believe in sharing our knowledge so that you can take the right steps to deal with your pain. So, our specialists thoroughly educate patients about the condition and provide valuable advice on how they can prevent it from exerting a massive influence over their life.
You can walk into any of our cutting-edge facilities in Greater Austin (512-244-4272), Amarillo (806-350-7918), Waco/Killeen (254-741-6641), and Greater Houston. Our advanced surgical centers are present in Austin, Amarillo, and Round Rock. We prioritize patient convenience over anything else and allow you to schedule an appointment online with our specialists. To expedite the check-in process, we provide various downloadable patient forms. You can fill out the form in the comfort of your home and bring them to your appointment with us. Advanced Pain Care accepts insurance from all major in-network carriers, behavioral health networks, and Worker’s Compensation Certified Networks.
Do not let fibromyalgia pain minimize your enthusiasm for living the life that you want to the utmost. Contact our pain management specialists by visiting APC today.
Mark T. Malone, M.D., is a Board Certified pain specialist and a native Texan. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and went on to attend the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. Dr. Malone attended Baylor College of Medicine… View Profile