Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are multi-system illnesses. They hit you hard in multiple ways, and confuse doctors of all specialties because not everything can be explained by the one system they focus on.
In recent years, a new term has been gaining acceptance -- neuro-endocrine-immune. That reflects the scope of these illnesses accurately and conveys their complexity.
Still, we don't tend to get a lot of information about the interplay of the systems involved. With fibromyalgia, a lot of the focus in on neurology. In chronic fatigue syndrome, you hear most about the immune system. The "endocrine" part tends to be forgotten.
The Endocrine Connection
Endocrinology deals with hormones. Remember that we have a bunch of hormones, not just the ones related to gender. The grand over-seer of your metabolism and how your body uses energy from food. It controls bone growth and muscle function. It plays an important role in lung and heart function, mood, and -- something we recently discussed here -- the health of your hair, skin and nails.
If you have fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome, odds are you've got problems in at least some of those areas. You probably won't be surprised to hear that a huge percentage of us have thyroid problems, and that they can exacerbate our symptoms.
Some experts believe that our conditions start with thyroid dysfunction. Now and then, you even come across someone whose symptoms disappear once they get proper thyroid treatment. However, many more of us have proper thyroid treatment and don't improve, and some have no diagnosable thyroid problems at all.
My personal belief is that this theory is probably accurate for a large subgroup of us, and I think it's important for all of us to have our thyroid function tested regularly. (And really, any marginally competent doctor should test for thyroid problems in someone complaining of fatigue, aches and memory problems.)
Thyroid Problems & Resources
Thyroid function is complex, and while research pretty clearly demonstrates that it's somehow involved in our illnesses, thyroid disease does need to be diagnosed, treated and managed separately.
My About.com colleague, Thyroid Guide Mary Shomon, has extensive information available on her site. To help you find the articles that are relevant to you, I've compiled them here:
I've used Mary's page a lot to deal with my own thyroid problems. I became hypothyroid (low) in the late 1990s, and then I was diagnosed with autoimmune thyroid disease in 2009.
Do you have thyroid problems? Are they well managed? Has your thyroid treatment improved your fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms? Leave your comments below!
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