If you suffer from fibromyalgia or think you may have this painful condition, there’s groundbreaking news from medical researchers: a blood test to detect it.
Scientists at The Ohio State University have reported that they’ve found strong evidence that fibromyalgia can be reliably detected in blood samples. They discovered that biological markers (a kind of special fingerprint inside your body) of fibromyalgia in the blood that showed these were different from other related diseases.
The study started with analyzing those who were already known to have fibromyalgia. These individuals were confirmed with the diagnosis. Another group was then tested—a group whose fibromyalgia was unknown. The tests identified those with the condition, and those without it.
The next steps are to test larger groups of people who report fibromyalgia symptoms.
I have pain, but I’m not sure I have fibromyalgia … What is it?
When you have fibromyalgia, you have nine pairs of tender points that cause pain on both sides of your body involving:
- the back of the head (1 pair)
- shoulders (2 pairs)
- upper chest (2 pairs)
- knees (1 pair)
- elbows (1 pair)
- hips (2 pairs)
You may have other symptoms like fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), morning stiffness, anxiety or depression, and concentration and memory problems, better known as “fibro fog.” Because of these multiple symptoms, it’s also difficult to diagnose at first as these symptoms can show up in other illnesses. Sometimes fibromyalgia can be misdiagnosed, resulting in a longer time for an accurate diagnosis.
The frustrating part for patients is that three out of four with the condition remain undiagnosed. On average, it can take five years from when your first symptoms appear to when you receive a diagnosis.
What causes fibromyalgia?
It’s unknown what causes fibromyalgia, but it’s thought that your genes, infections, physical or emotional stress, or psychological stress can trigger the condition.
Fibromyalgia is also diagnosed more often in women than men. You’re likely to get it if you have a family history, or if you have conditions like arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus.
Until the blood test is ready for a fibromyalgia diagnosis, there are treatments that doctors currently use.
- Medications: Pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), and naproxen sodium (Aleve and others). Your doctor may suggest a prescription pain reliever such as tramadol (Ultram). Narcotics are not advised since they can lead to dependence.
- Antidepressants: Duloxetine (Cymbalta) and milnacipran (Savella) may help with pain and fatigue. Other drugs include amitriptyline or the muscle relaxant cyclobenzaprine to help with your sleep.
- Anti-seizure medications: Drugs used to treat epilepsy are often useful in treating certain forms of pain. Gabapentin (Neurontin) and pregabalin (Lyrica) have been used. Lyrica is the first drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for fibromyalgia treatment.
Therapies and counseling
Therapies can help reduce effects that the condition has on your life and body. These include:
- Physical therapy: Strength exercises can help. Water-based exercises in a heated pool are especially good.
- Occupational therapy: This therapy can help you perform tasks (including those at work) that will cause less stress on your body.
- Counseling: A counselor can teach you strategies for dealing with stressful situations that can potentially worsen your pain.
And as is the case with any illness, don’t forget to try reducing your stress and exercise as best as you can. As you do it more regularly, you may find that your pain lessens. Try to pace yourself, and don’t do too much at once. Be sure to eat healthy foods, and limit your caffeine intake.
With the new blood test to diagnose the condition, there is great help on the horizon for fibromyalgia sufferers. In the meantime, if you have symptoms, see your doctor. It’s best to write out a detailed list of your symptoms along with any current or past medical problems and that of your family. And have a list of questions you’ll want to ask. Often, it’s best to see a rheumatologist who’s trained in the treatment of arthritis and other conditions, including fibromyalgia.