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Is fibromyalgia an autoimmune disease?

Lana Bandoim's picture
Fibromyalgia research

If you are wondering if fibromyalgia is considered an autoimmune disease, then the following information from experts will help.


Fibromyalgia is a medical condition that does not have a cure and is difficult to diagnose. According to the Office on Women’s Health in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, fibromyalgia is not an autoimmune disease, but it shares many characteristics with one, and this is a controversial point.

Why is fibromyalgia not an autoimmune disease?

Some patients and doctors believe that fibromyalgia should be classified as an autoimmune disorder, but the general medical consensus is that it does not currently qualify. There are still many unknowns about this medical condition and ongoing research that is trying to answer questions. An autoimmune disease is defined as one that has the body attacking itself with your immune system trying to destroy healthy cells and tissues, and it is not clear if this is happening in all fibromyalgia cases.

There are many misconceptions about fibromyalgia and confusion with autoimmune diseases, and this has made it more difficult for patients to get a proper diagnosis. In addition, conflicting research has added to the problems. For example, in order for a disease to be considered autoimmune, you usually need the presence of autoantibodies and issues with the immune system. Although some research has found elevated levels of thyroid antibodies in fibromyalgia patients, this is not enough evidence to change the classification of the disorder because it is possible to have fibro and another autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto's autoimmune thyroiditis at the same time.

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Should fibromyalgia be defined as an autoimmune disease?

There is overlap between fibromyalgia and autoimmune diseases because of similar symptoms. Fatigue, weakness and pain are common in both types of medical disorders. In addition, they are both difficult to diagnose and can be present together at the same time. For example, you can have fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, or you may have fibromyalgia and lupus.

However, one study proposed that fibromyalgia is an autoimmune disorder of endogenous vasoactive neuropeptides. The definition of endogenous is having an internal origin. Vasoactive means affecting blood pressure and the diameter of blood vessels. Neuropeptides are compounds that can be neurotransmitters. The research mentions that vasoactive neuropeptides appear to play a role in autoimmune diseases and fibromyalgia.

Vasoactive neuropeptides are part of multiple bodily functions ranging from thermoregulation to memory. This may explain why many fibromyalgia patients complain about feeling hot or cold and have problems with concentration and brain fog. The study suggests that an injury or other physical problem can trigger a cascade of issues that lead to the malfunctioning of the vasoactive neuropeptides.

Will classifying fibromyalgia as an autoimmune disease help?

It has been suggested that classifying fibromyalgia as an autoimmune disease may help patients get a faster diagnosis and increase the acceptance of this disorder. Unfortunately, many medical professionals and those outside of the system still believe fibro is not a real problem and only exists in the minds of the patients. Chronic pain is difficult for others to see and feel, so it is easy for them to dismiss this medical condition. A stronger classification and definition for fibromyalgia may help eliminate some of these myths and misconceptions.