Can A Viral Infection Trigger Fibromyalgia?

viruses and fever
Is It Possible To Catch Fibromyalgia?

Terminology: Fibromyalgia is also called Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS)

Recent research indicates that yes, it may be possible that viral infections can trigger fibromyalgia. Although doctors still aren't sure what causes fibromyalgia (it's very complex), it may be in some people, certain bacteria or viral infections can trigger fibromyalgia symptoms. A 2005 study published in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, suggested that the risk of fibromyalgia in people with chronic hepatitis B was much higher than people without the condition. Patients were more likely to have sleep disorders, fatigue and widespread musculoskeletal pain. Studies also suggest that fibromyalgia is more likely to develop in women with hepatitis C, Epstein-Barr (common virus, most people become infected at some time in their life), Lyme disease (bacterial virus caused by the bite from a tick) and HIV. In a way, it seems like certain infections make it easier to 'catch' fibromyalgia.

Hepatitis B And Hepatitis C

One study by researchers at the Rheumatic Disease Unit of the Soroka Medical Center showed that patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) reported significantly more pain in the fibromyalgia tender points on their body, than those without HCV. HCV is a blood born virus that attacks the liver and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 3.2 million Americans are currently infected. Researchers also investigated hepatitis B (HBV), which is even more common than HCV. In a study reported in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, 26 percent of patients with HBV displayed symptoms of FMS. 40 percent experienced chronic fatigue (versus 12 percent of healthy people) and 36 percent had sleeping problems (versus 8 percent of healthy people). HBV patients also reported other medical issues, including widespread muscle pain, headaches, irregular periods, irritable bowel syndrome and anxiety. The studies don't appear to indicate that everyone with HCV or HBV has fibromyalgia, but rather that hepatitis might trigger fibromyalgia.

Epstein Barr, CMV And Mononucleosis

Epstein-Barr is a very common virus and it is estimated that 95 percent of Americans have been infected at some time in their life. In most people it is harmless and does not cause any symptoms or problems. In a percentage of cases it can develop into a mononucleosis infection causing fever, sore throat and swollen glands. Mononucleosis is sometimes called the kissing disease because it spreads via salvia. Typically symptoms last about 4 months before getting better. If you then go on to develop fatigue and widespread muscle pain, you should talk to your doctor about the possibility of having fibromyalgia. Mononucleosis is also commonly caused by a virus called cytomegalovirus (CMV).

If You Are Worried
If you have been diagnosed with Epstein-Barr or any other infection we mentioned, take our fibro-quiz: What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?
Also, read about other triggers: Can an accident or trauma cause fibromyalgia?
Considering other causes: Is fibromyalgia genetic?

Personal Stories

I had Epstein Barr disease which caused a bout of mononucleosis. Within a few weeks I had pain all over my body and I was exhausted all the time. The doctors said I was just run down, but things didn't improve. After doing my own research I found out that mononucleosis can trigger fibromyalgia which I mentioned to my doctor. He said the evidence isn't really there yet, but I know myself. I was fine before it, but ever since I've had all the classic symptoms of fibro.
Shane, Boston.

I went traveling with my husband last year to Africa and came down with a virus after a mosquito bite. My sister died, due to a long illness when I came back, which was hugely stressful on us all. My body was in pieces, I was exhausted all the time and sore all over my body. I contacted a good doctor and he told me that severe stress and a virus can be a trigger for fibromyalgia. I'm taking fibromyalgia medications now, and my life is slowly coming back together again.
Anne K, Florida.

After 10 years of searching I finally received a fibromyalgia diagnosis. How did it start? I got sick during a basketball match in college in 2001. Turns out I had CMV mononucleosis (Cytomegalovirus). I had it for 4 months and then had a relapse a few months later. I had the classic signs of CMV, fever, swollen glands and felt exhausted all the time. While I recovered from CMV, over the course of about 4 or 5 years I developed fibromyalgia symptoms. I know for sure it was triggered by the CMV virus.
Denise, New Orleans.

Related Questions
Exercise tips: What are the best exercises for fibromyalgia?
Seeking specialist medical care: What type of doctor treats fibromyalgia?
Best drugs and natural therapies: What is the best treatment for fibromyalgia pain?

• Need more information? See: Fibromyalgia Guide
• Got another question? See: Womens Health Questions

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