Why Do People Get Confused? Fibromyalgia is Actually Not an Autoimmune Disease

You may have seen some conflicting information regarding fibromyalgia and autoimmune diseases. Some people will tell you it is considered to be an autoimmune disease, others will tell you it’s not. However, you must know that physicians do not consider fibromyalgia to be an autoimmune disease.

The cause of this debilitating disease is not known and individuals who have other diseases could be much more likely to be affected by it. Diseases that make an individual more susceptible to fibromyalgia are ankylosing spondylitis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Typically, the symptoms of fibromyalgia are the same as those in some of these autoimmune diseases, which makes diagnosing much more difficult.

Why is Fibromyalgia not Considered an Autoimmune Disease?

At this point in time, fibromyalgia is not considered to be an autoimmune disease. Further research could change this, but that doesn’t seem likely right now. Though some cases of fibromyalgia do involve a dysregulation of the immune system itself, this is much different than the dysregulation caused by an autoimmune disease. Right now, researchers have been unable to totally understand the nature of the dysregulation caused by fibromyalgia.

Autoimmune Diseases Explained

As mentioned before, autoimmune diseases include ankylosing spondylitis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and others. Nowhere in this list will you find fibromyalgia autoimmune disease. So, though fibromyalgia does exhibit the symptoms of an autoimmune disease/disorder, it is not considered to be one.

What are the Symptoms of an Autoimmune Disease?

There are many symptoms of autoimmune disease– many of which are the same or almost the same in those who have fibromyalgia. Following are some of the symptoms that occur with autoimmune diseases that could also point to fibromyalgia.

Greater Susceptibility to Infections– frequent bladder infections, colds, ear infections, yeast infections, sore throat, and sinus problems are very common among both fibromyalgia patients and those patients with autoimmune disorders. Additionally, you will experience a much slower recovery time if you have an autoimmune disorder.

Common Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Pain All Over the Body– this is aching, throbbing, stabbing/shooting, burning pain deep within the muscles.

Fatigue– feeling completely drained of energy (can be one of the most debilitating of the symptoms).

Difficulty Sleeping– this includes both falling and staying asleep. You will not be getting adequate sleep, so you feel quite deprived of sleep upon getting up.

Brain Fog– problems with focusing/concentrating on things, retaining information recently learned, etc.

Stiffness Upon Waking in the Mornings- muscles feel sorer in the early mornings and individuals feel stiffer than they usually are. Typically, gently stretching your muscles and taking a warm shower/bath helps to loosen them up.

– Knotting, Cramping, Weakness in Muscles- no matter how much you do to relax the muscles, they still feel very tense. The pain that is caused by fibromyalgia itself could be a source of muscle weakness.

– Digestive Disorders- abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, nausea, diarrhea, gas, IBS, and more are very common with fibromyalgia. Also, slow digestion and acid reflux are common.

– Migraines/Headaches- these are typically present at least twice per week and are rated as severe pain- usually with a migraine component. The pain is partially due to trigger points located in the head, neck, and shoulders.

– Problems with Balance- typically, individuals afflicted with fibromyalgia have trouble walking and their odds of falling down are increased.

– Burning/Itching Skin- you may have itchy/red bumps or your skin may be completely clear and it burns like when you have been sunburned.

Compare Fibromyalgia and Autoimmunity

Though some of the symptoms are quite similar- and even exactly the same in some cases- the research into fibromyalgia has not found a link to autoimmunity.  There have been no inflammatory markers that have been elevated consistently, there have been no antibodies discovered, and researchers have not observed the damage that is typical of autoimmune activity within the body.

However, there has been a significant overlap that has been observed between specific autoimmune conditions and fibromyalgia that shows the possibility that those who have autoimmunity are susceptible to developing fibromyalgia. These are:

Why Do People Get Confused?

The fact that people misunderstand the meaning of ‘autoimmunity’ greatly contributes to the misunderstanding between the two. Additionally, it could be to the similarities between the two.

For example, both fibromyalgia and autoimmune disorders have fatigue, pain, and several other very common symptoms; both fibromyalgia and autoimmune disorders can be quite difficult to diagnose and can take a long time to sort out; a common poor understanding of the two- even those in the medical community don’t always understand fibromyalgia and autoimmune disorders, so they lump them all together because, on the surface, they appear the same.

However, you must understand the difference between the two because though they appear to be the same, the treatments are very different. You don’t want to be treated for one if you have the other- the treatment would not be successful.

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