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Rev Environ Health. 2016 Jun 1;31(2):281-94. doi: 10.1515/reveh-2015-0040.

Fibromyalgia syndrome pathology and environmental influences on afflictions with medically unexplained symptoms.


Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a clinical disorder predominant in females with unknown etiology and medically unexplained symptoms (MUS), similar to other afflictions, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Gulf War illness (GFI), and others. External environmental stimuli drive behavior and impact physiologic homeostasis (internal environment) via autonomic functioning. These environments directly impact the individual affective state (mind), which feeds back to regulate physiology (body). FMS has emerged as a complex disorder with pathologies identified among neurotransmitter and enzyme levels, immune/cytokine functionality, cortical volumes, cutaneous innervation, as well as an increased frequency among people with a history of traumatic and/or emotionally negative events, and specific personality trait profiles. Yet, quantitative physical evidence of pathology or disease etiology among FMS has been limited (as with other afflictions with MUS). Previously, our group published findings of increased peptidergic sensory innervation associated with the arterio-venous shunts (AVS) in the glabrous hand skin of FMS patients, which provides a plausible mechanism for the wide-spread FMS symptomology. This review focuses on FMS as a model affliction with MUS to discuss the implications of the recently discovered peripheral innervation alterations, explore the role of peripheral innervation to central sensitization syndromes (CSS), and examine possible estrogen-related mechanisms through which external and internal environmental factors may contribute to FMS etiology and possibly other afflictions with MUS.

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