Researchers believe repeated nerve stimulation causes the brains of people with fibromyalgia to change. This change involves an abnormal increase in levels of certain chemicals in the brain that signal pain (neurotransmitters). In addition, the brain’s pain receptors seem to develop a sort of memory of the pain and become more sensitive, meaning they can overreact to pain signals.
In addition, the brain’s pain receptors seem to develop a sort of memory of the pain and become sensitized, meaning they can overreact to painful and nonpainful signals.
There are likely many factors that lead to these changes, including:
- Genetics. Because fibromyalgia tends to run in families, there may be certain genetic mutations that may make you more susceptible to developing the disorder.
- Infections. Some illnesses appear to trigger or aggravate fibromyalgia.
- Physical or emotional events. Fibromyalgia can sometimes be triggered by a physical event, such as a car accident. Prolonged psychological stress may also trigger the condition.
Risk factors for fibromyalgia include:
- Your sex. Fibromyalgia is diagnosed more often in women than in men.
- Family history. You may be more likely to develop fibromyalgia if a relative also has the condition.
- Other disorders. If you have osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, you may be more likely to develop fibromyalgia.
The pain, fatigue, and poor sleep quality associated with fibromyalgia can interfere with your ability to function at home or on the job. The frustration of dealing with an often-misunderstood condition also can result in depression and health-related anxiety.