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    Is Depression Linked to Fibromyalgia?

    Some scientists used to believe that because fibromyalgia was accompanied by low-grade depression, there may be a link between the two illnesses. Today, mental health issues are no longer thought to cause fibromyalgia. However, chronic pain can cause feelings of anxiety and depression, which may worsen fibromyalgia symptoms.

    Is Fibromyalgia Hereditary?

    Like other rheumatic diseases, fibromyalgia could be the result of a genetic tendency that's passed from mother to daughter. Some researchers believe that a person's genes may regulate the way his or her body processes painful stimuli. These scientists theorize that people with fibromyalgia may have a gene or genes that cause them to react intensely to stimuli that most people would not perceive as painful. Several genes have been found to occur more often in people with fibromyalgia.

    It's thought that when a person with this genetic tendency is exposed to certain emotional or physical stressors -- such as a traumatic crisis or a serious illness -- there is a change in the body's response to stress. This change can result in a higher sensitivity of the entire body to pain.

    What Are Risk Factors for Fibromyalgia?

    Risk factors are distinct characteristics researchers have identified that may increase your chance of getting a certain illness. While researchers have identified some common risk factors for fibromyalgia, there are still many people with the disease who have none of these traits. Also, some women have fibromyalgia with certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), or other autoimmune diseases. But others have fibromyalgia without any underlying disease.

    Possible risk factors for fibromyalgia include:

    • gender (usually female)
    • genetic disposition (may be inherited)
    • menopause (loss of estrogen)
    • poor physical conditioning
    • surgery
    • trauma to the brain or spinal cord (after an injury, accident, illness, or emotional stress)

    How Do I Explain Fibromyalgia to my Family and Friends?

    There is simply no single theory that explains the cause of fibromyalgia. Neither do we know what causes fibromyalgia to flare up.

    Whatever the cause, the unending pain, tender points, and insomnia or sleep problems tend to increase the fatigue and depression you feel. This, in turn, leads to increased anxiety, reduced activity, and greater pain. Disordered sleep, even lack of REM sleep, can reduce your energy levels. If it continues over time, it can lead to a decrease in the body's ability to repair damaged tissues.

    Once your doctor makes a proper fibromyalgia diagnosis, effective treatment for fibromyalgia can be started. That way, you can manage the symptoms and preserve your quality of life.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on June 28, 2016
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