Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic debilitating condition leading you to feel pain and tenderness throughout your body. In addition to chronic widespread pain, you may have depression, chronic fatigue, sleep dysfunction, irritable bowel syndrome, temporomandibular disorder or chronic headache.
Current treatments can help people control pain, but a complete recovery is rare, especially because scientists don’t yet understand the causes of the disease.
Studying the biological basis of fibromyalgia helps to reveal which triggering factors are involved, and thus to develop preventing strategies or effective targeted treatments. It has been observed that family members tend to have an increased risk of the disease, and certain types of genes have been linked to fibromyalgia. But, as for other complex conditions, not all members of an affected family are necessarily vulnerable. We know in fact that the genetic information is stored in our DNA as a code made up of four chemical bases: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). Human DNA consists of about 3 billion bases, and more than 99 percent of those bases are the same in all people, but a small percentage varies from person to person, determining your own specific traits and possibly influencing your own predisposition to a disease. To this genetic increased risk might contribute also your personal experience: environment, including both physical (physical injury, acute illness, surgery, motor vehicle accidents, inflammatory joint diseases) and psychological (chronic stress, emotional trauma, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, child traumatic events, daily life hassles, catastrophic events, persecution, depression, anxiety) factors, seems to influence your vulnerability to fibromyalgia.
We also know that experienced stress may influence which genes are switched on or off, in scientific words which genes are “expressed”. This means that drugs use and abuse, social/behavioral factors, diet, and stress can affect your genes and subsequently your health. The study related to how a person’s experience might influence genes expression is called epigenetics: “ἐπί” means above because these environmental factors do not change your DNA sequences, but how DNA is condensed and disposed to be read and eventually to produce proteins.
Epigenetic research in fibromyalgia might reveal why some people develop fibromyalgia and others don’t and to give some important directions understanding which genes are involved in the triggering mechanisms of the disease. In addition, highlighting its biological causes can stop the common misperception that fibromyalgia is something you imagine, and you can just stop to feel. In addition, epigenetics could reveal new treatments options and strategies.