With fibromyalgia usually comes “fibro flu.” I didn’t coin the term. I didn’t even really think about it until I was reading an article about how people feel when they have fibromyalgia and flu-like symptoms came up. After having the flu in January, however, it became more and more clear that there are similarities between fibro pain and good old fashioned flu.
For me (because we all experience fibromyalgia differently), I get fibro flu after a long, hard day and I’m completely exhausted. The worst passes after a good night’s sleep, but it can linger, just like the flu, for several days if I don’t get enough rest when it hits. The symptoms are the exact same ones I feel when my temperature goes above 99 degrees:
- Feels like my skin is peeling off
- Headache with severe eye pain
- Joints feel twisted and swollen
- My scalp hurts – if the wind blows, my hair hurts
- Severe back pain
- Basic muscle aches and pains
Since the symptoms are more than similar, I checked to see why we ache when we get the flu. Essentially, according to a British doctor (http://www.avogel.co.uk/health/immune-system/flu/symptoms/aching-joints), when we get the flu, our systems send our white blood cells to fight with the virus instead of doing their normal day-to-day chore of repairing and rebuilding muscles. White blood cells also produce more cytokines which is a chemical (often elevated in fibro patients – see Staud in the library) that causes inflammed muscles and joints to fight the flu.
Therefore, I thought I would check to see if fibro patients generally had an elevated white blood cell count, which might account for elevated cytokines and thus pain and swelling, flu-like symptoms, but I’m not finding anything confirming it. A study by Elmas et al (see library) looked specifically at WBC and found no difference between the fibro group and control group. They did, however, find a higher platelet count in fibro patients. That is something I need to look at more because it implicates the spleen. Elmas et al also suggest that it’s possible that a higher platelet count could be because of a loss of platelet function (due to low adenosine triphosphate levels).
It would be very interesting to see a study on fibro patients where the control group consists of fibro patients whose symptoms are under control and the study group would be fibro patients who are in the midst of fibro flu or a fibro flare. A third level could be a group of non-fibro people. Another study that would be interesting would be to take fibro patients and run identical tests on them during different stages of fibro and see how the results fluctuate in the same person, if they do at all.
The problem with studying fibro is the varying nature of the problem, not just between patients but within patients. I’ve never seen a study that adequately addresses that problem.