While it is true that there is no direct genetic link between fibromyalgia patients- as in the disorder is not passed from parent to child the way some other genetic disorders are- there have been studies that have proven the odds of developing fibromyalgia are much higher in those who have family members who suffer from the disorder. This leads to the conclusion that heredity is a factor in causing fibromyalgia.
In fact, DNA studies of family members of fibromyalgia and chronic pain patients have reflected several genes that could serve as an explanation as to why these disorders seem to run in families. Each of the genes found are involved in your nervous system’s response to things- such as pressure and heat- that cause pain. Sometimes, these same genes are associated with anxiety and depression as well, which could be why certain antidepressant medications actually reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
So, according to research, it is currently believed that fibromyalgia is not hereditary in there is not a mutation that is responsible for a specific trait (monogenic). However, research has proven that genes do actually predispose an individual to fibromyalgia, but in a way that is much more complex- involving many different genes (polygenic).
Difference between Monogenic and Polygenic
In a classical, or monogenic, hereditary condition, the genes that you get from your parents are the factor that determines whether or not you’ll end up with a specific disease. For example, in the case of cystic fibrosis, if both of a child’s parents are carriers of this disorder, the child will have a 25 percent chance of developing the disorder, cystic fibrosis.
When it comes to the polygenic predispositions, it’s not as easy or as certain as that. In this case, your genes only show that the particular disorder or illness is possible- given the right conditions. There are other factors that will come into play to trigger a polygenic disorder.
When it comes to fibromyalgia, other factors that could trigger the disorder are: other chronic pain sources, an autoimmune disease, problems with sleep, chronic stress in an individual’s life, infectious illnesses, or even an abnormal brain chemistry. Some experts have even said that environmental factors such as sensitivities to certain foods or being exposed to certain toxins could play a role in the development of fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia and Genetic Links
In 1989, researchers began looking at a possible genetic component of fibromyalgia, since it does tend to run in families. This study took a look at parents and siblings of individuals with fibromyalgia and discovered that around 52 percent of those had characteristics and other components of fibromyalgia but had not received and official diagnosis. Another 22 percent didn’t show the symptoms, but there was evidence of some abnormal consistency in the muscles. More research conducted later on discovered and confirmed this high rate of fibromyalgia occurring through families and proved that a low threshold of pain also was common in those related to an individual suffering from fibromyalgia.
Even now, researchers are just beginning to get a clearer picture regarding the certain genetic factors that are associated with fibromyalgia. So far, there have been multiple studies that suggest the connection with several different genes, but most of the studies have not been repeated.
Abnormalities in genes that have been suggested by these studies include genes that are related to the neurotransmitters and hormones that have been proven to be connected to fibromyalgia, including: norepinephrine, serotonin, glutamate, GABA, and dopamine. There are some others that are related to the general function of the brain, which inhibit viral replication, as well as the brain receptors for cannabinoids and opioids.
As more is learned regarding these genetic factors, researchers could find out which of them actually contribute to an increased risk of developing fibromyalgia. In addition, researchers could find out whether or not any of them can be used to diagnose and/or treat fibromyalgia.
Finally, when it comes to fibromyalgia research, scientists are working to find a connection in the pain thresholds of individuals related to variations of specific genes. Variants of genes determine how efficiently the nerve cells are able to work to recycle serotonin has already been established with heightened sensitivity to pain.
Is Fibromyalgia Genetic?
As you can see, the answer to this burning question is: yes and no. Though there are certain genes that do actually predispose you to developing the disorder, it is not directly related to your genes as some other disorders are.
Scientists are studying the field of epigenetics more and more in regards to fibromyalgia. Epigenetics is the science of how the environment- such as certain nutrients- acts on the genes to contribute to the development of the disease/disorder. This could help to better clear up the question of whether or not fibromyalgia is genetic.
So, while it is true that no direct genetic link has been found in fibromyalgia patients, there have been studies that have proven that individuals who have family members with the disorder are much more likely to develop it themselves. This brings us to the conclusion that heredity does play a factor- even if a small one.
DNA studies done on family members of those individuals who have fibromyalgia and chronic pain have shown that there are several genes that could explain why chronic pain and fibromyalgia seem to run in families. It has also been found that these very same genes are also associated with depression and anxiety, which is most likely the reason that certain antidepressant medications actually reduce fibromyalgia symptoms.