The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. However, many researchers believe that fibromyalgia centers around possible problems with how the central nervous system processes pain. Also, certain risk factors are known to increase a person's chances of developing the condition. A few of these risk factors include being female, having a family history of fibromyalgia, and being exposed to traumatic events.
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Most researchers currently believe that fibromyalgia centers around possible problems with how the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) processes pain. For some reason, a person with fibromyalgia reacts strongly to stimuli that most people would not perceive as painful. This amplifying of pain is generally known as "central sensitization."
Some researchers speculate that a person's genes may be involved. However, this gene (or genes) -- if it, in fact, exists -- has not been identified. Other researchers are studying the impact of certain chemicals or blood flow problems in the brain.
Some other possible reasons for fibromyalgia that researchers are studying include psychological factors, disturbances in sleep patterns, muscle problems, and problems with the autonomic nervous system.
Fibromyalgia Risk FactorsWhile not causes of fibromyalgia, there are a number of factors that may increase a person's chances of developing the condition. These are known as fibromyalgia risk factors. Some specific fibromyalgia risk factors include:
- Being female.
- Being exposed to physically or emotionally stressful or traumatic events. These events could include having a car accident, undergoing surgery, or being deployed to war.
- Suffering injuries to the body caused by performing the same action over and over again.
- Having certain medical conditions or infections. People with rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases -- such as systemic lupus erythematosus (also known as SLE or lupus), ankylosing spondylitis, or thyroid disease -- are particularly likely to develop fibromyalgia. Also, some researchers think a virus or bacteria may trigger fibromyalgia.
- Having a family history of fibromyalgia.
While specific fibromyalgia causes are not known at this time, fibromyalgia research scientists are actively studying many different potential causes.