Fibromyalgia is an elusive condition. Sufferers for years have been plagued with difficulties in treatment, in part because the actual cause of fibromyalgia is a mystery. In fact the diagnosis of fibromyalgia is difficult because it comprises a variety of conditions. As a result, while you may have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and your neighbor was as well, you both could be experiencing a very different set of symptoms. And this variety of diagnosis makes the answer to the question of what causes fibromyalgia very difficult.
The best answer to the question of what is the fibromyalgia cause might be that the cause is not known. The common symptom for those affected with fibromyalgia experience pain in response to stimuli that are normally not perceived as painful by the rest of the population.
Researchers have found elevated levels of a nerve chemical signal, called substance P, and a nerve growth factor in the spinal fluid of fibromyalgia patients. Levels of the brain chemical serotonin are also relatively low in patients with fibromyalgia. Studies of pain in fibromyalgia have suggested that the central nervous system (brain) may be somehow supersensitive. Scientists note that there seems to be a diffuse disturbance of pain perception in patients with fibromyalgia.
Also, patients with fibromyalgia have an impaired non-Rapid-Eye-Movement, or non-REM, sleep phase (which likely, at least in part, explains the common feature of waking up fatigued and unrefreshed in these patients). The onset of fibromyalgia has been associated with psychological distress, trauma, and infection.
While these findings provide some generalities for those who suffer from fibromyalgia, they seem to be more reflective of the effects of the condition rather than the cause itself.
When looking at the symptoms of fibromyalgia, it can be noted that symptoms can be triggered as the result of: a minor illness like the flu; a trauma incident like an automobile accident or fall; or emotional stress. In addition, it is possible that susceptibility to fibromyalgia results from micro-trauma related to physical de-conditioning, poor posture, and/or muscle overuse.
It can be helpful to understand suggested causes in more detail. We’ve covered many of the more commonly accepted causes here:
Immune System Problems – Certain immunologic abnormalities are common among people with fibromyalgia. Some research suggests that fibromyalgia is the result of toxins accumulating in the muscles from lactic acid build-up.
Physically Unfit Muscles – There is evidence that many cases of fibromyalgia are found in people who live a chronically unfit lifestyle. People who do not exercise regularly and live a sedentary lifestyle can be more prone to fibromyalgia than those who are active and exercise regularly.
Disturbance in Brain Chemistry – Many people who develop fibromyalgia have a history of clinical depression. It is well known that depression is the result of an imbalance in the chemistry of the nervous system. Research still has not established whether this relationship to depression is a cause of fibromyalgia, or a bi-product of the condition itself.
Sleep Disturbances or Insomnia - Many researchers have noticed that fibromyalgia sufferers have low levels of serotonin. Moreover, there is a suggestion that the central cause of the pain of fibromyalgia could be due to this low level of serotonin. We know that chronic low levels of serotonin cause one’s sensation of pain to be greatly exaggerated. And, to complicate the matter further, the low levels of serotonin also may be what triggers the insomnia and sleep disturbances that are experienced in many fibromyalgia patients.
Infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) – There is some evidence that there is a correlation between fibromyalgia and the Epstein-Barr virus, the virus that causes infectious mononucleosis.
Fungal Infection with Candida albicans – There is some evidence that there is an association between the onset of fibromyalgia symptoms and a fungal infection with Candida albicans. Like fibromyalgia, the causes of infections from Candida are varied, although there does seem to be a correlation of infection with the use of antibiotics. Candida infections show themselves as thrush (inflammation in the mouth and tongue), as vaginitis (inflammation of the walls of the vagina resulting in itching), and other forms of rashes.
Food Allergy – There is some correlation between fibromyalgia and people who suffer from allergies to various foods such as: dairy products; wheat; fermented foods; potatoes, or eggplant,
Other possible triggers that release fibromyalgia symptoms may include: emotional stress; intestinal Candida overgrowth; nutritional deficiencies; adrenal exhaustion; chronic mercury poisoning from amalgam dental fillings; anemia, hypoglycemia and hypothyroidism.
Fibromyalgia is closely related to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), which causes similar symptoms, except that in fibromyalgia, muscle pain predominates over fatigue, whereas in CFS, fatigue predominates over pain.
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