Part of the difficulty of living with fibromyalgia is that there’s so much we just don’t know about the condition. There’s no cure, and the usual methods doctors use to treat it just don’t work for some people. And as always, when the source of a medical condition is a mystery, people tend to fill in the gaps with some strange theories.
For instance, maybe you’ve heard that fibromyalgia is actually caused by intestinal parasites. It’s typically something you hear on websites that specialize in alternative medicine or maybe even from a friend with the condition who swears that a parasitic infection was contributing to their fibromyalgia.
Of course, the thing about fibromyalgia is no one knows what causes it. And as we learn more about the condition, sometimes we discover that the things that seem sort of unlikely turn out to actually play a role. So, are parasites really causing fibromyalgia? Let’s look at the evidence we have.
The first and most obvious question to ask when it comes to this theory is, “What kind of parasites are we talking about?” There is a wide range of different parasitic species that can infect humans and all can have a different effect on the body. But basically, there are two different types of intestinal parasites that affect humans.
First, there are protozoa, which are essentially microscopic, single-cell organisms that can reproduce in the human body. Protozoa are usually responsible for relatively common diseases in the digestive tract like giardia. But they can also lead to more exotic infections like leishmaniasis, which leads to ulcers in the skin and can damage internal organs.
Then, there are helminths, which are larger, worm-like parasites. These parasites usually make their way into the body through the skin or the digestive system and begin to reproduce. If you’ve ever had a tape or hookworm infection, then you’ve dealt with helminths.
A lot of different parasites can cause symptoms that are similar to fibromyalgia. Tapeworm infections can lead to abdominal pains and muscle weakness, which are common among people with fibromyalgia. But these larger parasites are usually easy to detect with medical tests. So they don’t quite fit the bill for a parasite that mimics fibromyalgia symptoms without being noticed.
Certain protozoan infections can also cause abdominal problems and fatigue. But they tend to be relatively short-lived infections, which wouldn’t explain why fibromyalgia symptoms last for decades.
So, is there any possibility that parasites can actually cause or contribute to fibromyalgia?
Intestinal Parasites And Fibromyalgia
First, let’s address the idea that fibromyalgia itself is actually caused by parasites. Obviously, it’s not something that doctors have spent much time researching. So, there really isn’t much hard evidence one way or the other. But if we look closely at the condition, you’ll see that the odds of this being the case are extremely long.
To begin, let’s assume that fibromyalgia actually is caused by a parasite.
According to the National Fibromyalgia Association, 3-6% of the world’s population may have fibromyalgia. And if fibromyalgia was caused by parasites, then everyone with fibromyalgia would have to be infected.
Unlike fibromyalgia, which has no obvious symptoms, parasites can be examined under microscopes. That means that doctors, who tend to be a methodical bunch, are missing millions of cases of parasitic infections. Obviously, this isn’t impossible. But it does seem unlikely.
Second, the infection would have to produce the exact symptoms of fibromyalgia. And while many parasitic infections can produce similar symptoms, the difference between the symptoms of known parasitic infections from those of fibromyalgia is significant enough that doctors can usually spot which condition you’re suffering from with the help of some basic tests.
Now, there is a more likely scenario that could link parasitic infections and fibromyalgia. Many people seem to develop fibromyalgia after infections of injuries. It could be that some types of infections can make the immune system hypersensitive. This immune sensitivity might actually contribute to the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
If true, then it’s easy to see how a parasitic infection could have the same effect. But even if parasitic infections can contribute to fibromyalgia, treating the condition probably isn’t as simple as getting rid of the parasites.
Fibromyalgia is a complex condition that seems to be caused by a number of different factors. There are few, if any studies, about the relationship between parasitic infections and fibromyalgia. If parasitic infections do have a link, then it’s probably as a kind of contributing trigger rather than a direct cause.
But if you’re concerned about the possibility of being infected, it’s a good idea to bring it up with your doctor. They’ll be able to test for infection and provide you with good advice.