Q & A: Is Fibromyalgia an Autoimmune Disease? : Moving my blog

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Kevin P. White, MD, PhD
With a medical degree, training in two specialties (Internal Medicine and Rheumatology) and a further doctoral (Ph.D.) degree in medical research (Epidemiology, the study of epidemics and other disease in populations), Dr. White has been an internationally recognized expert in fibromyalgia treatment and research, fibromyalgia patient advocate, and former university Teacher of the Year. Now retired from active practice, he has turned to writing, having already written four novels, nine children’s books, a book of inspirational essays and, as a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, over 400 songs. In this newest book, Dr. White returns to his roots in medical practice and research, trying to help millions of fibromyalgia sufferers with a book that, once and for all, tells all that FM really is real.

"When I was in practice, one thing I heard from my FM patients, over and over, was that the pain, though severe, was not the worst thing; nor was the fatigue or headache or mental cloudiness. The WORST thing for many was the their feeling that no one believed their suffering was real. With Breaking Thru the Fibro Fog, I hope to end all that uncertainty, and give those with FM the rights and respect that everyone deserves."
“Dr. White’s talk was highly informative and entertaining. He injected just the right amount of wit and humour into his talk to keep the audience on their toes! It would be wonderful if everyone could hear him, both those with fibro and those who need to learn more. Thank you so much, Dr. White, for taking Fibromyalgia on the Road!”

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Q & A: Is Fibromyalgia an Autoimmune Disease?

by Dr. Kevin White on 05/13/13

This is a question I've been asked many times. What is meant by this question is this: is the immune system 'responsible' for the symptoms of fibromyalgia? In other words, is immune system dysfunction the CAUSE of fibro.  Examples of clearly autoimmune diseases are systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE) and rheumatoid arthritis, diseases in which a person's own immune cells (white blood cells) start attacking that person's own tissues. The theory is this: that someone is exposed to some virus, bacteria or other 'foreign invader', the immune system turns on to attack it (which is appropriate), but then the immune system also starts attacking the person's own tissue because some protein, sugar or fat or other molecule on the surface of the virus/bacteria looks close to some protein/sugar/fat on the surface of the person's own tissues.

There is definitely an autoimmune 'link' with fibro, as there is a significant association between fibro and a number of well-established autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, and others. Specific abnormalities in white blood cell function have been identified as well, under a microscope. But none of this confirms that fibro itself is CAUSED by immune system dysfunction.

Attempts to identify a fibro-specific autoimmune antibody have not yet been successful.

And, though it's not difficult to rationalize that a fibro case is autoimmune in those whose symptoms start following a flu-like illness or other infection, or in the setting of some other auto-immune like lupus. On the other hand, it's somewhat difficult to justify an autoimmune cause in those whose fibro starts right after an injury, so-called 'post-traumatic fibromyalgia.'

Hence, I SUSPECT that a SUBSET of fibro cases have an autoimmune component to them. But how might affect treatment of fibro?

Well, those who have an underlying autoimmune disease (like lupus) should be treated accordingly, with attempts to reduce the autoimmune response. One such drug commonly used in severe cases of autoimmune disease, especially when the disease is out of control, is prednisone, a very potent immune system inhibitor. To date, the only study to assess whether suppressing the immune system in people with fibro works was a study, published about 20 years ago, in which patients were given Prednisone. In that study, Prednisone didn't seem to work. It IS possible, however, that such a drug MIGHT have an effect if we could isolate and treat those who specifically have an autoimmune component to their disease.

So, to get back to the question: Is Fibromyalgia an Autoimmune Disease?

I can confidently answer that I don't know. Again, I SUSPECT that SOME cases have an autoimmune basis. To date, all that can be done to identify such people is to look for the presence of other confirmable autoimmune diseases (like lupus) and treat them for those underlying diseases. In some, their fibro symptoms may improve as well.

Comments (2)

1. Judith said on 2/15/17 - 04:24PM
I am a 79-year-old lady. My FIBROMYALGIA disease appeared at the age of 74, with no hope of a cure from the hospital i looked further for an alternative treatments, a friend of mine told me about Health Herbal Clinic in Johannesburg South Africa who sell herbal treatments for diseases including FIBROMYALGIA disease, I contacted the herbal clinic via their website and purchased the fibromyalgia herbal remedy. I received the herbal remedy through DHL couriers within 8 days and i immediately commenced usage as prescribed, i used the herbal remedy for about a month and 1 week, my condition has greatly improved, all my symptoms including Chronic muscle pain, Abdominal pain, nausea, I am fibromyalgia free! contact Health Herbal Clinic via their email healthherbalclinic(at)gmail(dot)com or visit www(dot)healthherbalclinic(dot)weebly(dot)com PLS fibromyalgia is not a death sentence, there is a cure!
2. Dr. Kevin White said on 2/16/17 - 01:24PM
I am pleased that you have responded so well. Unfortunately, what worked for you might not work for most others. To date, there is no proven universal cure for FM, or even one that significantly improves symptoms in more than 50%. Researchers are still looking.

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