Fibromyalgia (FMS) is one of the most elusive diseases that affect the human body. Given its many vague symptoms – numbness, anxiety, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, depression and more – it's very hard to diagnose, which explains why the cause of FMS is currently unknown. Like any idiopathic disease or medical condition, not fully understanding the cause and treatment can be the most devastating part. Some experts believe FMS is related to hormonal disturbances and chemical imbalances affecting the nervous system. Others link the condition to illness, trauma or just plain stress. Still other researchers blame genetics or claim there is no explanation at all. Indeed, even today, fibromyalgia is often labeled as a somatoform disorder, meaning "it's all in the head," but anyone actually suffering from FMS will tell you this is not the case.
It is important to note that our clinical experience with numerous patients points to Lyme disease (or chronic Lyme disease complex) as having something to do with fibromyalgia's origins for some patients. TTo make this easier to understand, let's define chronic Lyme disease complex (CLDC), based on our ten years of clinical experience and our Lyme literate medical doctors' experience with treating chronic infections, fibromyalgia and autoimmune diseases. Shea Medical defines CLDC as involving one or more factors: Lyme disease; its co-infections; the reactivation of dormant infections, such as viruses; and an immune compromised state that can be further complicated by heavy metal and chemical toxicities. How this differs from the CDC's definition is that they are treating Lyme disease in a vacuum as one infection and not clinically correlating it to the complete complex diagnosis that is typically seen in the patients we come across.
Fibromyalgia-symptoms.org has this to say about Lyme disease complex: "It is thought that between 15% and 50% of those patients diagnosed with Lyme disease actually have fibromyalgia. It is important that you be tested for Lyme disease using a variety of different diagnostic tests, in order to rule out this disease." Not only that, but Lyme disease will produce a vast range of symptoms and not all patients suffering from Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto (the bacteria that causes Lyme disease) will produce all of the symptoms, many of which are not even specific to Lyme disease. First, let's explain what Lyme disease is. Like syphilis, Lyme is a spirochete bacteria that is spread by deer ticks. However, the symptoms can relate to a vast variety of other symptoms, including: swollen lymph nodes, fever and chills, headache and stiff neck, muscle and joint paint, and the most common symptom - lack of energy. After a month, if Lyme disease is not treated, these symptoms will soon include: skin rashes, pain weakness or numbness in the arms and legs, paralysis of facial nerves, recurring headaches or fainting, poor concentration and memory recall, pink eye (conjunctivitis), and heart palpitations. Late persistent infections include: increased swelling in the knees, numbness and tingling in the hands, severe fatigue, chronic Lyme arthritis (which can cause recurrent swelling, redness and fluid buildup in the joints), and even neurological changes that affect memory, mood, sleep and even speech. To further complicate matters, many tests for Lyme disease can come back with a false positive or false negative. As you can see, early stages of Lyme disease can be very difficult to diagnose, even with a blood test. In addition to physical examination results, most doctors will rely on environmental factors such as exposure to ticks carrying the disease and medical history. But let's go back to fibromyalgia. Some of these symptoms certainly overlap, especially muscle pain and fatigue. But is there a link? Let's get scientific for a moment. Consider the connection between Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and FMS through the Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Don't let that long string of words confuse you – the HPA is merely a communication network of direct influences and feedback interactions between the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the adrenal gland. Think of it as an Internet connection in your brain. In many cases, abnormal levels of certain chemicals that are regulated by the HPA axis have been proposed as a potential cause of CFS. In Lyme disease, patients can contract the infection and its co-infections at any point in their lifetime, but the symptoms may not raise their head until the patient is weakened, usually by a traumatic experience such as a major injury, giving birth, receiving a vaccine or even extreme emotional trauma such as divorce or death. Such trauma will undoubtedly affect the HPA axis, however, how much will vary, depending on the patient. Let's bring it all back – if chronic Lyme disease can affect the Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the HPA axis can lead to chronic fatigue syndrome, which is related to fibromyalgia, then it seems there is a link from Lyme disease to FMS. Lyme disease treatment is relatively simple and can be done with antibiotics, if diagnosed and treated in early stages, which is rarely the case. Unfortunately for fibromyalgia, there is no universally accepted cure. Treatment generally consists of symptom management, i.e. exercise therapy to relieve muscle pain. If you have concerns about chronic Lyme disease complex or fibromyalgia, contact us. Our team is equipped to help answer any questions you may have.