Recently, one of my doctors remarked that, because I have an autoimmune disorder, I’ll need to really look into the COVID vaccine before I get it. My response? “So, you do consider fibromyalgia an autoimmune disorder?” She said, “Yes, it’s an autoimmune disorder.”
Over the years, I’ve heard no one knows what causes it and, later, that it’s a nervous system problem. The last couple years, there seems to be a debate about whether the condition is neurologic or autoimmune in nature. There is a general consensus that fibromyalgia looks and acts like an autoimmune disease. My doctor’s certainty kind of surprised me.
She explained that there are different types of fibers in our muscles. With fibromyalgia, the immune system attacks one kind. These fibers are also in ligaments, tendons, and other connective tissues. When this fiber is attacked, it loses elasticity and becomes tight. When a person with fibromyalgia moves their muscles, those stiffened fibers have tiny breaks occur. These injuries can only be seen with an electron microscope. Prior to seeing these microscopic injuries, no damage had been documented, which is a qualifier for being classified as an autoimmune disorder.
Fibromyalgia effects on the body are widespread because the fiber involved is found throughout. The pain that’s dull and aching occurs due to the damage. Sharp, sudden, intense muscle spasms happen regularly with no discernible “cause.” Because the immune system is working all the time and the person is experiencing pain consistently, the brain and body are fatigued.
I can trace symptoms of fibromyalgia all the way back to high school and college. Three general doctors and a rheumatologist have confirmed the diagnosis since it kicked into high gear following major medical trauma. Just because the doctors have identified the disorder, they don’t give much in the way of an explanation. This is the first time I’ve received information that seems to make sense of the cause and the long list of symptoms. Scientists are learning more all the time, so we could eventually have a more complete picture. For now, the disorder has been demystified for me, researchers have seen physical confirmation, and, for whatever reason, these give me more peace of mind.