Millions of people suffer from it, most of them women. Learn about fibromyalgia, one of the most common rheumatological diseases and one of the most common causes of pain; of unknown cause and difficult to diagnose.
Fibromyalgia is one of the most common causes of pain and, in recent years, has gained increasing importance, becoming a public health problem of the first order.
It is a chronic disease characterized by generalized musculoskeletal pain and a reduction in the pain threshold, with increased pain sensitivity to pressure in certain points of the body, known as tender points. This pain is located mainly in muscular areas, with no apparent damage, and the patient is highly sensitive to any physical contact or change in temperature.
Health problems associated with fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is often associated with other health problems such as poor sleep quality, morning stiffness, tiredness, depression and anxiety, headache, irregular bowel habits, diffuse abdominal pain, muscle cramps, and subjective sensation of swelling.
Fibromyalgia is the third most frequently diagnosed rheumatologic disease after osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It is more frequent in women so that it is diagnosed in one man for every eight women. The mean age in which its diagnosis predominates is around 40-49 years, although the first symptoms may appear between 20 and 40.
This disease can be associated with other chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, osteoarthritis, and Sjögren’s syndrome.
Causes of fibromyalgia
Both the causes that trigger fibromyalgia and how this pathology occurs are unknown at the moment.
But there is some evidence about the mechanisms that can lead to fibromyalgia:
- Imbalance of neurotransmitters in the nervous system (substances produced by neurons in the brain). There is an alteration of the regulatory mechanisms of pain, the autonomic nervous system (part of the body nervous system), and mood.
- Alteration of levels of certain substances that intervene in neurochemical processes, producing greater susceptibility to pain: serotonin, tryptophan, substance P, glutamic acid.
- Alteration in the arrival of blood flow to certain brain structures (imaging studies have verified it).
- Some genetic basis or genetic predisposition. Fibromyalgia appears in 28% of children of affected patients, and there is an influence in relatives of affected patients (8.5% more frequent with affected relatives).
- It is triggering and precipitating factors: chronic infections, viral infections, inflammatory processes, or muscle diseases. A retrovirus (a type of virus, XMRV) has recently been discovered, which is believed to be involved in fibromyalgia.
- Affective spectrum; fibromyalgia is very often associated with depressive symptoms, without it being possible to specify whether fibromyalgia appears first and depression later, or vice versa.
In general, there is an over-stimulation of all body systems, but the final response to pain is not adequate. The known data on fibromyalgia suggest that the disease’s symptoms are probably caused by a central (brain level) alteration of pain sensitivity rather than by a dysfunction in the body’s peripheral tissues. These imbalances cause the patient to experience great pain in the tissues, with no apparent damage.
Although psychological factors greatly influence the symptoms of fibromyalgia and associated problems, it is not considered appropriate to include it in the group of common mental disorders.
It has been observed that the disease is triggered when a person with this predisposition receives some type of impact such as an accident, trauma, surgery, exposure to toxic substances, viral infections, etc.