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Eosinophilia-Myalgia Syndrome : Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

What is Eosinophilia-Myalgia Syndrome?

Eosinophilia-Myalgia syndrome is a rare condition in which the eosinophils are elevated.(1) This eosinophil build-up leads to inflammation in different parts of the body including muscles, skin, and lungs. It may lead to itchy rashes, fatigue, and joint pain. It may also lead to serious complications such as irregular heartbeat and memory issues.

Eosinophilia myalgia syndrome was first diagnosed in the year 1989 after treating people with similar symptoms.(2) It was observed that people with the symptom had consumed L-tryptophan supplements.

L-tryptophan is a supplement that is mostly present in foods. Its supplements are also available.

Causes of Eosinophilia-Myalgia Syndrome

Eosinophilia myalgia syndrome was observed to occur as a result of the L-tryptophan supplement.

L-Tryptophan supplements were consumed as a remedy for symptoms such as depression and insomnia. It was also promoted as a weight loss and body-building supplement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a strong link between the consumption of manufactured supplements and eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome.(3) Also, there was a link with the consumption of L-5 hydroxytryptophan, an amino acid that was closely related to L-tryptophan.

Due to these findings, a warning was initiated by the CDC advising to stop consuming L-tryptophan.

There was no recorded epidemic, but cases were reported as the supplements came back into the market.(4)

Risk Factors of Eosinophilia-Myalgia Syndrome

Eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome can develop in anyone. But during the epidemic, amongst the people impacted:

  • 84% were females
  • 86% were more than 34 years of age
  • 97% identified were non-Hispanic white

According to the American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorder (APFED), people who took larger doses of L-tryptophan were older and were more likely to develop Eosinophilic-Myalgia syndrome.(4)

Symptoms of Eosinophilia-Myalgia Syndrome

Mostly the symptoms occur as soon as the conditions begin. The symptoms of eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome may vary from person to person.

There are acute symptoms that may last from 3-6 months. The symptoms of eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome include:

  • Severe muscle pain and weakness
  • Coughing and trouble breathing
  • Joint pain
  • Tenderness and swelling in soft tissue
  • Loss of reflexes
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Patches with dry, rigid, and discolored skin
  • Fatigue
  • Tingling and numbness in arms, legs, feet, and hand
  • Tremors

The chronic symptoms of eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome include:

  • Severe nerve pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Irreversible liver scarring
  • Difficulty in concentrating and communication
  • Excess growth of fibrous, hard tissue that eventually replaces standard bone tissue and leads to bone pain and damage
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

There may be hardening of connective tissue in the skin

According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, people who developed eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome experienced disabling neurological symptoms.(3)

Diagnosis and Treatment of Eosinophilia-Myalgia Syndrome

Mostly eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome is diagnosed on the basis of a person’s condition, by abnormal liver function and elevated levels of eosinophils and serum aldolase.

There is no standard treatment for eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome. The common treatment may include:

  • Muscle relaxants
  • Pain-relieving medications
  • Corticosteroids and diuretics to reduce inflammation

In acute cases, limiting exercise and strenuous physical activity may be helpful in reducing muscle cramps and pains. However, in chronic cases continuing physical activity may prove to be beneficial.

The outlook for eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome may vary depending on the severity of the condition. It was estimated that around 37 of more than 1500 people who were diagnosed with the eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome epidemic died from the condition.(3)

There is no way to prevent eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome. Avoiding eating products and supplements containing L-tryptophan may be helpful in reducing the risk of suffering from it. Even if initially L-tryptophan containing products and supplements were banned, they are still available.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 19, 2022

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