If you take a look at how far we have come when it comes to technology and science, you would be tempted to believe that there isn’t anything out there to actually still be a mystery when it comes to the medical field. And yet, there are so many things that remain more than just mysterious. Cancer is probably one of the most fearsome and dangerous one, but in addition to it, there are many other medical conditions whose nature remains unknown to the date.
Fibromyalgia, for instance, has been recognized as a stand-alone medical illness quite recently. Before that, it was only considered to be a form of depression that shows physical symptoms. Even today, there are still many physicians refusing to actually accept the fact that this syndrome is as real as it gets and that it should be considered to be very serious.
There are 5 million Americans (and, according to different studies, more than 6 million, actually) who suffer from fibromyalgia. For them, this syndrome is a daily reality. Some of them have learned to live their lives as free of the pain as possible. But many have been bedridden for years (in the most literal sense of the phrase). For them, it cannot get more real than that.
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Believe it or not, this is a question for which nobody has been able to find a clear an answer to. Although it is quite a while since fibromyalgia has started to be acknowledged as a stand-alone medical condition, research has not given actual answers yet. How so?
Fibromyalgia is very complex because it shows many symptoms. Pain is the most poignant one of them, but it can very often (most of the times, actually), come accompanied by various other disorders, symptoms and medical conditions that create a vicious cycle that leads medical professionals in confusion. Sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, pain in the muscles, muscle twitching, muscle spasms, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, dizziness, constipation, frequent urination, headaches (sometimes very severe), eye vision, cognitive issues – all these can come with fibromyalgia and they sometimes seem to be inter connected to each other in a very odd way.
Even more than that, there are many other disorders and medical conditions that are actually very similar to fibromyalgia and which can pose a big problem when it comes to the diagnosis. Multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome are among these. Sometimes, fibromyalgia is mistakenly diagnosed as one of these conditions, which consequently means that patients don’t get the proper treatment.
So, what is it that leads to all this trouble?
Nobody knows exactly. Some say that trauma brought to the brain or spinal cord area can actually trigger the series of symptoms. Others connect fibromyalgia with lack of sleep and sleep disturbances. And then are the ones which sustain that a drop in the level of serotonin in the brain can make the body send the wrong signals to the brain when it comes to pain.
Genetics also appear to play an important part in everything. Some studies have shown that there is a higher risk to develop fibromyalgia if your parents or someone in your family has it as well and that this is connected to certain genes responsible with how the body perceives pain as well.
What Is the Relationship between Fibromyalgia and Thyroid Diseases?
Thyroid problems such as hypothyroidism are quite common out there. It is estimated that nearly 20 million people in the United States only have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism. And out of all of them, a large number ends up being diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
At first, people thought this happens somehow due to the large number of symptoms the two conditions share together. Fatigue, depression, exhaustion, brain fogginess and even muscle and joint pain are commonly encountered in both of the conditions. Starting with this point, some scientists have started to elaborate theories according to which the two conditions may actually be related in one way or another.
Some have claimed that both fibromyalgia and hypothyroidism are autoimmune in nature and that the cause of their onset can be found in the same area of the brain: the hypothalamus. This has also been the starting point for further research. According to Dr. Teitelbaum, this region is responsible with the way in which we sleep, the way in which our bodies feel the temperature and the way in which the autonomic nervous system functions – which would actually explain many of the symptoms shown by patients with fibromyalgia as well.
According to this school of thought, fibromyalgia’s underlying issue is poor thyroid hormone regulation in the patients’ bodies. This can happen either due to an undiagnosed or untreated deficiency or due to the resistance the tissue of the patients shows to thyroid hormones.
In addition to the symptoms that are caused exclusively by the thyroid issues the patients have, several other risk factors make the situation even worse. Among them, specialists include poor physical condition, nutritional deficiencies, unhealthy diet and medication that actually slows down the metabolism – which, put together can make up for the entire array of symptoms patients with fibromyalgia show.
This is still in the point of theory, but it could be the beginning of a completely new era in the medical research made in the fibromyalgia niche. The treatment available for patients now is mostly symptomatic, which means that they don’t actually cure the syndrome. Some doctors prescribe pain medication and other types of medication, along with several other remedies such as exercising and eating healthy or attending Yoga or acupuncture classes/sessions.
Also, there are some drugs out there that have already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, and although their effectiveness has been proved in some of the cases, specialists could not actually explain why these drugs work. Even more than that, these drugs function similarly to antidepressants, which means that there are serious adverse effects as well.
Research that connects thyroid issues with fibromyalgia could indeed provide patients with better and more adequate treatment that may not show the same adverse effects as the current treatment available and that could actually be more efficient, so there is plenty of hope on the horizon for patients with fibromyalgia!