It’s estimated that 9 in 10 adults have been infected with Epstein-Barr virus at some point in their lives. For most people, the virus doesn’t cause any serious symptoms. Odds are good that if you were infected with it at some point, you actually had no idea at the time.
But for some, the virus can be much more serious and lead to recurrent symptoms for years. People with fibromyalgia seem to be especially vulnerable to the virus, and it may actually explain some of those strange symptoms that people with the condition often report.
So, just what is Epstein-Barr Virus? What is the connection to fibromyalgia? And what can you do to treat it?
Epstein-Barr virus is part of the family of herpes viruses, which includes other infections like chickenpox and cold sores. Like many of these viruses, Epstein-Barr is very infectious and can spread easily through saliva or other bodily fluids.
The most common symptoms of Epstein-Barr include:
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
The most widely-known complication of Epstein-Barr virus is probably mononucleosis, or mono, as it’s better known. The virus is the most common cause of mono, an infection that leaves you suffering from extreme fatigue and flu-like symptoms for weeks.
But most Epstein-Barr infections don’t lead to mono. In fact, it’s often difficult to tell if you’ve been infected, as the symptoms are usually very mild. This is especially true in childhood, the time when most people are first infected with Epstein-Barr. In children, the symptoms are often so mild that they’re mistaken for colds or other minor illnesses.
Like chickenpox, Epstein-Barr is usually more serious when you’re exposed to it as an adult. But in most cases, infected people recover completely within a few weeks.
Once the virus infects someone, it remains in the body for years. And sometimes, the virus is reactivated, causing another bout of symptoms. This is called chronic Epstein-Barr virus infection.
Most infected people never experience this, because they develop immunity to the virus. But if you have a weakened immune system, you’re more likely to develop chronic infection. And that fact might explain a lot when it comes to fibromyalgia.
Epstein-Barr Virus And Fibromyalgia
Most adults have inactive Epstein-Barr infections. But people with fibromyalgia often have weaker immune systems, which means that they’re more likely to suffer symptoms.
This could explain why many people with fibromyalgia report symptoms that are similar to those of Epstein-Barr virus, but not really associated with fibromyalgia. In one study looking at a group of patients with fibro, 54% reported frequent sore throats, 47% reported rashes, 40% reported frequent coughs, and 28% reported low-grade fevers.
It’s possible that these people are suffering from chronic Epstein-Barr virus infection, and that’s the root of these symptoms.
If you’re worried that you might be infected, it’s possible to get a test to confirm it. Talk to you doctor about getting a test done.
Obviously, no one wants to suffer these symptoms on top of the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Luckily, there are things you can do manage them.
How Is Epstein-Barr Virus Treated?
There’s no vaccine to prevent infection. And because the virus is so common, there’s little you can do to actually prevent yourself from getting infected. Avoiding contact with people who are currently infected can help, but since it’s hard to know who has the virus, that can prove difficult.
There’s also no way to prevent an infection from becoming a chronic infection. Unfortunately, there’s also no way to cure an infection. So if you’re already suffering from a chronic infection, all you can really do is try to manage the symptoms as they appear.
The best way to manage Epstein-Barr virus symptoms is to treat it as you would a common cold. Make sure to get plenty of rest so that your body has a chance to recover. Pushing yourself too hard can not only make your symptoms worse, it can trigger flare-ups of your fibromyalgia symptoms.
You can manage fevers and sore throats by taking basic medications like aspirin or ibuprofen. These will help reduce the pain and bring your fever down. You should also try to manage your internal body temperature by taking cool baths or placing cold compresses on your neck.
Be sure to stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet as well. When you’re suffering from both fibro symptoms and Epstein-Barr symptoms, it’s tempting to stop taking the effort to take proper care of yourself. But making sure that you do can help you get over the symptoms faster.
So, what do you think? Is there a connection between Epstein-Barr virus and fibromyalgia? Have you been tested for the infection? What do you do to manage the symptoms? Let us know in the comments.