a woman lies in a patch of sun on her floor, clutching her stomach

Fibromyalgia: What's Its Connection to Endo?

An emerging theme that has come up for me while blogging on this and other sites on health issues: How common it is to be struggling with multiple medical conditions, and the fact that many of these disorders seem to be connected to each other. For instance, I not only have endometriosis, but several other diagnoses, including fibromyalgia.

My experiences with fibromyalgia

While I have experienced pain on and off all of my life, it used to occur more sporadically and in more specific sections or parts of my body. But over the years, the pain has become more widespread and consistent, eventually becoming a daily phenomenon. In 2015, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, but it was sort of a default diagnosis to define the pervasive pain I experienced throughout my body all the time- which also included symptoms like severe muscle pain and nerve issues.

In the past year, I actually took a blood test to further determine if I might actually have fibromyalgia. This specific test identifies certain biomarkers in the immune system, particularly when it comes to cytokines in the blood cell count.1 Having an abnormally low cytokine count can indicate fibromyalgia as those with fibro diagnosis demonstrated this, while those without such diagnoses tended not to. Currently, this test is approved by the FDA, but is not yet considered a sure determinant of fibromylagia. Nonetheless, when I received my results showing I suffered from extremely low cytokine counts in my blood, it made me validated to know there was at least some biological underpinning explaining my pain.

The research on fibromyalgia & endometriosis

But where does endometriosis factor in? Well, a cross-sectional survey was conducted by the Endometriosis Association in 1998 of 3680 patients with surgically-confirmed endometriosis found that they had higher rates of fibromyalgia (5.9 versus 3.4%) than the general population.2 A decade later, four organizations — the Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS) Association of America, the Endometriosis Association, the National Vulvodynia Association, and the TMJ Association — collaborated to form what is now called the Chronic Pain Research Alliance. In particular, the Alliance identified six conditions in women that commonly overlap. These included both fibromyalgia and endometriosis, as well as interstitial cystitis (sometimes referred to as "painful bladder syndrome"), Irritable Bowel Syndrome, TMJ, chronic fatigue syndrome, and Vulvodynia.3 (Note: in addition to endo and fibro, I also have IC, IBS, and TMJ).

While remains unknown exactly why those with endo are more likely to have fibro, it seems the immune system may play a part. My hope is that the Alliance will be able to conduct further research to uncover this mystery, which may in turn be able to advance treatment that can lead to better management and alleviation of symptoms in both conditions.

Do you suffer from fibromyalgia as well as endo? If so, what do you do to treat or cope with your diseases? Please share in the comments below!

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