Is fibromyalgia an autoimmune condition?
Short and sweet answer: No
That we know of with current research.
Let’s look into the question a little more
What is an autoimmune disease?
The immune system becomes overactive and the body attacks its own body tissues.
In response to an unknown trigger, the immune system may begin producing antibodies that instead of fighting infections, attack the body’s own tissues. Treatment for autoimmune diseases generally focuses on reducing immune system activity. WEBmd
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Graves’ disease
And many more
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a condition where the pain processing system is faulty in the brain so that we feel pain faster, longer, and where there is no pain at all. It is characterized by widespread pain. That doesn’t mean, though, that we cannot have places where the pain is more severe, only that, yes, we tend to have baseline pain all over. What they know is the pain starts in the brain and pain processing. The syndrome varies from person to person and through one’s own lifetime. One person can be disabled by it while another can cope and function within limitations. One person can have severe pain while another severe fatigue.
There is some evidence it is caused by neuroinflammation. “Analysis of 92 inflammatory-related proteins in cerebrospinal fluid (CFS) and in plasma established evidence for both neuroinflammation and chronic systemic inflammation in FM” Study They believe also it is a central centralization condition. But there is no known cause stated at this time.
What they Know:
- Fibromyalgia impact the central nervous system, affecting how the brain processes pain. Causing widespread pain, fatigue, sleep dysfunction, cognitive dysfunction as some of its symptoms.
- It isn’t progressive (as far as we know by research at this time) See Will Fibromyalgia get worse
- New research into possible autoimmune factors are in progress so this may change in the future. (This research is an interesting read but not so far indicative of autoimmunity for certain, yet. And we cannot base a theory on a few studies, therefore we cannot make the conclusion fibromyalgia is an autoimmune condition based on just a little research, It would be premature to do so.)
- We know that research has yet to really get a grip on what fibromyalgia is and how it affects the entire body, so all this may change in the near future with further research.
“Abnormalities in pain processing have been identified at various levels in the peripheral, central, and sympathetic nervous systems, as well as the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis stress-response system. Documented abnormalities include evidence of peripheral sensitization and wind-up phenomenon, central sensitization with changes in functional MRI and SPECT scans of the brain, increased levels of substance P in the cerebrospinal fluid, and impairment of descending noxious inhibitory control (DNIC) [111-118] Canadian Fibromyalgia Guidelines
Fibromyalgia is a SYNDROME to date
Fibromyalgia is not:
- Autoimmune (as far as currently informed)
- A progressive disease (as far as currently informed)
Some people feel like they get worse over time with fibromyalgia and that is often due to the fact they gain comorbid conditions or because due to doing less their muscles weaken… both of which will worsen symptoms and pain.
But fibromyalgia itself is not progressive. That is, it is not a disease that spreads and worsens over time. Fibromyalgia doesn’t damage our body over time. As far as research has determined. (keep in mind there has been a lot of research on inflammation and small fiber neuropathy… there have just been no conclusions yet as to whether we have long-term damage being done, on any level, yet stated officially. And therefore it is speculation at this point.)
But symptoms may worsen over time… hell, they fluctuate and ebb and flow as the decades go on it seems to me. And definitely, the less you do the less you can do due to lack of muscle conditioning… which certainly will make it feel like it is getting worse. Will fibromyalgia get worse?
The main difference is research on fibromyalgia is lagging behind many, many other conditions. We learn more every year about fibromyalgia. Back when I was diagnosed, half the doctors I saw didn’t believe it even existed. Now they know it exists but can’t quite put a finger on it… yet. So what category we are in is yet to be determined… so… we are a syndrome until research catches up to us.
More than 23 million Americans have some sort of autoimmune disorder that can affect nearly any part of the body.
Where your own immune system mistakes itself and attacks healthy cells. There are approximately 80 conditions in the autoimmune category. But fibromyalgia isn’t one of them.
There is the fact that confuses the issue: 1 in 4 people with fibromyalgia Also have an auto-immune disorder. But this doesn’t make fibromyalgia itself autoimmune.
They overlap in symptoms often which can lead to further confusion. (Joint pain, fatigue, weakness, muscle pain). But the test that indicates an autoimmune disorder does not show for fibromyalgia.
Other than the fact fibromyalgia doesn’t show on those tests autoimmune disorders can cause permanent damage to the body (even skin and joints). Fibromyalgia does not cause permanent damage to the body.
Fibromyalgia doesn’t fit into the category of autoimmune to date. It does mimic the symptoms of many autoimmune conditions and can occur With them but it is not one itself.
That doesn’t mean fibromyalgia can’t be severe or disabling because it can be. Also with the complications of comorbid conditions, we certainly seem to be getting worse over time… that is just compounding conditions and symptoms and decreasing functionality. We know it compounds with comorbid conditions. We know symptoms can get worse with time. No one has to tell us these things.
I see fibromyalgia as brian and nervous system dysfunction… a system gone wrong. Were pain signals are sent where there should be none and amplified when they should not be. And because it affects the central nervous system we get a variety of symptoms… a LOT of potential symptoms. It can be quite hard to diagnose because it mimics so many other conditions and those must be eliminated. To me, it is a body gone haywire. A brain on fire. But not autoimmune… that we can say yet. Not based on the research yet. Not based on what has been officially said yet. We cannot confirm that yet. Therefore, we are not in that category. And if we were, we would know more about fibromyalgia than we do now that is for sure. And we certainly do not. What we have is a collection of interesting research that hasn’t been combined into a cohesive theory on what causes fibromyalgia.