Healthy Living

Is Fibromyalgia Hereditary?

Can Fibromyalgia Be Considered a Hereditary Condition?

While researchers have already connected the disease to stress, trauma, illnesses and certain substances, they are now starting to think that fibromyalgia may have more of a genetic link. This isn't exactly a new thought. Other studies have noticed this connection, but didn't yet expand on why or how.

Unlike previous researchers, this group looked more at the exact epigenetics involved with fibromyalgia. At the end of the study, they did determine that is entirely possible for parents to pass it down to their children, especially from mothers to daughters. 

Diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia are often cataloged as "epigenetics", which means that they lie dormant in the patient’s genes before being ‘switched on’ by certain environmental factors. This means, the some people may have a dormant version of the disease. And, like other diseases that can be inherited, patients may pass it down to their children, even if the disease is never activated in themselves.

As a study on epigenetics, it states that the term "epigenetics" refers to the layer of information which is layered on top of the sequence of letters A, C, G, and T that make up our DNA.

DNA acts like an instruction manual on how to assemble all the parts that make up our body, and then how to put them all together to form our physical selves. Epigenetics are a part of these strings of letters that can modify the way the information contained is read and interpreted, which serve to create the individual differences present in each one of us and serve to set us apart from each other. This phenomenon could be related to a series of pink and blue highlighters, where pink indicates that you think these aspects are important, while the blue states that they aren't as important.

These instructions are responsible for our body's variation.

However, this concept of epigenetics doesn't necessarily explain why fibromyalgia is a hereditary disease. It does show that there is a possibility that some patients are predisposed for the condition.

Several studies throughout the years have pointed to fibromyalgia being transmitted through generations in families. One study, conducted in 1989 and is currently published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, found that at least 52 percent of individuals who have parents or siblings with fibromyalgia also showed several signs and symptoms of the disease even when they haven't received a formal diagnosis. Twenty-two percent of the study’s population also had abnormal muscle consistency, but without any fibromyalgia symptoms.

Another study in 2004 also presented evidence of fibromyalgia as a hereditary disease. The study was conducted by researchers of the University of Cincinnati and was published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism. It discovered that individuals who had relatives with fibromyalgia were at least 8 times more likely to develop the condition than those without relatives with fibromyalgia. Even if they did not formally develop the disease, the study found that those who had family with fibromyalgia tend to experience a higher amount of pain in relation to other individuals.

Fibromyalgia's evolution: From being a disease caused by a psychological imbalance to being a chronic, standalone disease

Before, many physicians and doctors believed fibromyalgia to be caused by a psychological imbalance that took a toll on their physical bodies.

This thought wasn't helped by the fact that fibromyalgia was linked to stress and anxiety-related disorder, as well as rheumatoid diseases. Actually, it wasn't even considered a standalone disease until very recently. However, today, it's a different story.

As time went on, researchers began to understand what fibromyalgia really is: A chronic illness that is not quite related to psychological disorders. And, now that it's considered a chronic illness with its own tangible cause, patients are starting to get the help that they need and doctors have access to more research.

Fibromyalgia is the most common chronic pain illness currently in existence. It is present in approximately 2 to 8 percent of the American population, and affects mostly females with a ratio of 2:1. Approximately 5 million individuals in the country are struggling with this disease, which is characterized by chronic pain focused in certain parts of the body, known as “tender points”. Those with this disease might also feel other symptoms, such as excessive and constant fatigue, irritability, sleep problems, memory issues, and difficulties to concentrate due to what is called the “fibro-fog”.

Though this disease can be confused as a side-effect of other conditions, identifying and diagnosing was difficult. To date, it is estimated that approximately 75% of fibromyalgia cases go undiagnosed, and patients could be taking treatments for the wrong disease, which can only further complicate their condition rather than relieve it. However, fibromyalgia is caused by a chemical imbalance in the central nervous system, which causes pain to be magnified. For fibromyalgia patients, a simple brush with other people or objects could be a great source of pain. In fact, many who suffer from this disease frequently experience pain without any source at all. 

The factors that trigger the disease in the first place are still unknown. But, there are several theories that try to explain the factors that lead to the onset of fibromyalgia. The most common theories involve a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. In other words, while some people might be predisposed to develop the disease, it is not until they are exposed to certain environmental factors that they become sick with fibromyalgia. These environmental factors could include excessive stress, trauma, infections, and exposure to certain chemicals like pesticides.