Fibromyalgia is the name for a condition that typically includes widespread
muscle pain, fatigue and abnormal sleep patterns.
Until a few years ago, doctors called the condition fibrositis or muscular
rheumatism and believed that for the most part, the condition was “all in
the patient’s head.” Today, fibromyalgia is recognized by medical
organizations as a genuine and serious problem.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia typically include pain in many muscles, and around
ligaments and tendons, persistent fatigue, waking up feeling tired even
after a full night’s sleep, headaches, bouts of constipation and
diarrhea, abdominal pain, painful menstrual periods, sensitivity to cold,
numbness or tingling, and difficulty exercising.
Symptoms vary widely among patients and tend to wax and wane over time. An
illness, injury, cold weather or emotional stress may trigger a
fibromyalgia episode or make ongoing symptoms worse.
A study at the Oregon Health Sciences University and Portland Adventist
Hospital suggests hepatitis C may trigger fibromyalgia (“Fibromyalgia: A
prominent feature in patients with musculoskeletal problems in chronic
hepatitis C, A report of 12 patients,” by A. Barkhuizen, G.S. Schoepflin,
and R.M. Bennett, Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, Vol. 2, No. 4, August
1996 ). This study is the first to show a link between the two illnesses.
A more recent study (Curr Opin Rheumatol 2000 Jan;12(1):53-60) suggests
that a causative role of HCV seems to be likely in the development of
It was determined that the relationship between the hepatitis C virus and
fibromyalgia followed three distinct patterns:
In nine patients, fibromyalgia developed as a long-term complication of the
hepatitis, arising on average 13.4 years after the virus was acquired.
In two patients, fibromyalgia arose simultaneously with the hepatitis C
In one patient, pre-existing fibromyalgia was significantly worsened by the
It is unknown why the hepatitis C virus and fibromyalgia may be linked, but the
authors suggest that hepatitis C causes chronic activation of the immune
system that leads to muscle aching, fatigue, mental changes, sleep
abnormalities, and alterations of the neuroendocrine system.
The patients with both hepatitis C and fibromyalgia could be distinguished from
most other patients with fibromyalgia alone because they had symptoms
unusual to fibromyalgia. These symptoms included synovitis (inflammation
of the membrane around a joint, bursa, or tendon) and vasculitis
(inflammation of a blood or lymph vessel).
In addition, laboratory findings pointed to a disease process other than fibromyalgia.