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Fibromyalgia Research Update

Research continues to produce encouraging results as well as words of caution. Though not yet available to the public, a test method now exists that can identify fibromyalgia. Methods of reducing the pain and stress of fibromyalgia rank high on the list of research topics. The final update in this report reveals that fibromyalgia patients now have study results to reinforce what they already know, that their suffering has physical causes.

Researchers Develop a Testing Method That Accurately Identifies Fibromyalgia

A team of researchers affiliated with Ohio State University conducted a pilot study that made use of an infrared microscope to determine the differences in blood sample molecules between patients with fibromyalgia, those with rheumatoid arthritis, and those suffering from osteoarthritis. Once the machine was set to be able to distinguish one from another, a blind test was conducted. The test required only a few drops of blood from each patient in the study. Identification of the type of illness for every study participant, 41 in all, was 100 percent accurate.

Ohio State University has filed patent applications for this testing method, both in the United States and internationally. Researchers are hopeful that testing equipment can be set up at centrally located laboratories in the United States within the next 10 years. This will allow doctors to keep testing costs reasonable for their patients. A few drops of blood from a finger stick is enough for a test, and dried blood is okay.

Deep Oscillation Massage

In a recent study in Germany, fibromyalgia patients responded well to deep oscillation massage administered by trained physiotherapists through the use of a portable device. Both the overall symptoms of fibromyalgia and patient perception of quality of life improved. The massaging oscillator’s design allows massage to be given by physiotherapists or self-administered at home. Such devices are well known by therapists for their effectiveness in reducing pain and helping the body reabsorb fluids to lessen the effects of edema. The German study showed that, although some patients experienced a temporary increase in discomfort, this type of vibrating massage is both safe and effective for treating fibromyalgia.

No Correlation Between Cognitive Dysfunction in Fibromyalgia and Alzheimer’s Disease

At the 2013 annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, Dr. Robert S. Katz reported on a recently completed cross-sectional study of persons with fibromyalgia who suffer from a condition known as “fibrofog.” Researchers suspected that this condition might lead to Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Although fibrofog often comes on suddenly and interferes with clear thinking and the ability to concentrate or remember, fibromyalgia patients who experience fibrofog will be happy to know that it is not an indicator of future Alzheimer’s. There appears to be no correlation whatsoever between the two.

Long-Term Use of Antidepressants May Make Fibromyalgia Worse

Short-term use of antidepressants has shown beneficial results in the treatment of fibromyalgia. However, a recent one-year study of 23 fibromyalgia patients revealed a decline in the overall health of those who stayed on antidepressants for the entire year. More research is needed.

Research Uncovers Reasons for Fibromyalgia Pain and Fatigue in Some Patients

The findings of a research team based at Albany Medical College in New York eliminated doubt regarding the existence of physical causes of fibromyalgia pain. The team found that persons suffering from fibromyalgia have an overabundance of nerve fibers in the skin that surrounds certain blood vessels in the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Their locations could account for extreme hand and foot tenderness as well as deep muscle pain and fatigue.

Neurologist Anne Louise Oaklander, affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, published two studies. She found that many fibromyalgia patients suffer from small-fiber polyneuropathy, a condition in which the brain receives faulty signals from damaged nerve fibers. In one study, 13 of 27 fibromyalgia patients were found to have far fewer nerve fibers in their lower legs than normal. Blood tests revealed that none were suffering from diabetes. For more than half of the patients, however, test results pointed to immune systems that were not functioning properly. In addition, two patients in the study were found to have the hepatitis C virus lurking in their bodies.

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