What Causes Fibromyalgia? | MyFibroTeam

Connect with others who understand.

sign up Log in
Resources
About MyFibroTeam
Powered By

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

Medically reviewed by Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A.
Written by Kelly Crumrin
Updated on May 5, 2021

The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. Some researchers believe fibromyalgia originates with a problem in the nervous system, changing the way the brain and nerves process pain signals and increasing sensitivity to pain, cold, and other stimuli. Others believe that fibromyalgia begins with a disorder of the endocrine system, which produces hormones that regulate metabolism and respond to stress.

Scientists believe that both hereditary and environmental factors influence a person’s risk for developing fibromyalgia, but no one has identified why some people get fibromyalgia and some people don’t.

Risk Factors for Fibromyalgia

It is important to note that while science is good at finding correlations, or apparent relationships, between factors and disease, correlation does not prove that the factor causes the disease. Many risk factors for fibromyalgia have been identified and are being studied, but none have been pinpointed as the cause of fibromyalgia.

Hereditary Factors

Fibromyalgia does not appear to be directly inherited from parents in any clear genetic pattern. However, people with a family member who has fibromyalgia do have a higher risk for developing the disease themselves. In one small study, blood relatives of someone diagnosed with fibromyalgia had a 26 percent chance of developing the condition, while non-blood relatives had a 19 percent chance. Research to better understand hereditary predisposition for fibromyalgia is ongoing.

Women are much more likely than men to develop fibromyalgia – some researchers say the risk for women is twice as high, some say 10 times higher.

Fibromyalgia is more common among people diagnosed with an autoimmune condition such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or spondylitis. Some genes that predispose someone for autoimmunity may also pave the way for fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is most commonly diagnosed in middle age but is sometimes diagnosed in children and older adults.

Environmental Factors

Researchers have identified a wide array of environmental factors linked to the development of fibromyalgia.

Studies have investigated specific viruses for links with fibromyalgia. Some scientists believe that one or more infections such as hepatitis C, Lyme disease, and HIV may cause genetic changes in some people, paving the way for the development of fibromyalgia. One study investigated links between receiving the vaccination for hepatitis B and developing fibromyalgia.

There are often links between psychological trauma and fibromyalgia. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a risk factor for the development of fibromyalgia symptoms. Depression and fibromyalgia are closely linked. Some people experience their first symptoms of fibromyalgia after an emotionally traumatic event such as divorce, an abusive relationship, or the death of a loved one. Automobile crashes and surgery, which can cause physical as well as emotional trauma, are other common triggers. There is evidence that a history of childhood abuse may increase risk for developing fibromyalgia, but more research is needed to confirm this link.

Fibromyalgia is commonly said to cause problems with sleep. However, some researchers theorize that sleep disturbances cause fibromyalgia symptoms of pain and fatigue to develop.

Obesity raises the risk of developing fibromyalgia.

Smoking may increase the likelihood of developing fibromyalgia and worsen chronic pain.

Condition Guide

FAQ

Can fibromyalgia be prevented?
Since we do not yet know what causes some people to develop fibromyalgia, there is no certain way to avoid getting the disease. Some risk factors, including genetic predisposition, are beyond anyone’s control.

If you are concerned that you may have a high risk for developing fibromyalgia, focus on lowering your risk by changing the factors within your control. Maintaining a healthy weight and finding effective ways to cope with stress may help reduce your risk.

Is fibromyalgia contagious?
No. Fibromyalgia is not contagious.

Updated on May 5, 2021
All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

Become a Subscriber

Get the latest articles about fibromyalgia sent to your inbox.

Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A. is the clinical associate professor of medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here
Kelly Crumrin is a senior editor at MyHealthTeam and leads the creation of content that educates and empowers people with chronic illnesses. Learn more about her here

Recent Articles

This is a short guided meditation by Dr. Christiane Wolf on self-kindness, which can give you mor...

Self-Kindness When Struggling: 6-Minute Guided Meditation

This is a short guided meditation by Dr. Christiane Wolf on self-kindness, which can give you mor...
A medical ID is a form of identification that notifies others about your health in an emergency. ...

What To Engrave on a Fibromyalgia Medical ID: 5 Essentials and Other Ideas

A medical ID is a form of identification that notifies others about your health in an emergency. ...
If you’re living with fibromyalgia, you’re already aware of the impact the condition can have on ...

Fibromyalgia Awareness: How To Get Involved

If you’re living with fibromyalgia, you’re already aware of the impact the condition can have on ...
To determine how you can reduce your medical expenses, MyFibroTeam sat down with Susan Null of S...

How To Reduce Medical Bills: Top Financial Expert Shares 10 Tips

To determine how you can reduce your medical expenses, MyFibroTeam sat down with Susan Null of S...
Because the physical impact of fibromyalgia can be all-consuming, you may be dealing with psychol...

How Fibromyalgia Can Affect Your Mental Health

Because the physical impact of fibromyalgia can be all-consuming, you may be dealing with psychol...
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes widespread pain, fatigue, and other symptoms. Fi...

Fibromyalgia – An Overview

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes widespread pain, fatigue, and other symptoms. Fi...
MyFibroTeam My fibromyalgia Team

Thank you for subscribing!

Become a member to get even more:

sign up for free

close
MyFibroTeam
Add to your home screen
MyFibroTeam Tap below and then 'Add to Home Screen'