Approximately 75 per cent of fibromyalgia cases are left undiagnosed since its symptoms are similar to that of other conditions, making it difficult to attribute them to fibromyalgia alone. Fortunately, just this week, researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Centre have developed a test that is able to accurately diagnose the condition using blood samples. Dr. Kevin Hackshaw published this study in the Journal of Biological Chemistry stating how his team used vibrational spectroscopy on acids and proteins in blood in order to distinguish fibromyalgia-sufferers from others. Although the test is not yet ready for commercial use, it is a step in the right direction. Here the question arises: what exactly is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia can best be described as a medical condition that affects a person’s central nervous system. This condition enhances the system’s ability to sense pain by altering the way in which the brain processes pain signals. In other words, the brain is led to believe that a sensation is more painful than it is. Those thought to suffer from this disease usually experience musculoskeletal pain all over their body. They constantly deal with a dull ache throughout the body that never seems to leave, and this pain is usually accompanied by immense fatigue, lack of focus, headaches, mood swings, gastrointestinal issues, depression, anxiety, and so on. Although this condition can affect both men and children as well, it is women who are more susceptible to it. Around 80-90 per cent of people suffering from fibromyalgia are women.
Although doctors have yet to pinpoint the exact reason for the development of fibromyalgia, they attribute it to several different factors working together such as genetics, age, gender, trauma, and rheumatic disease. Those whose family members are known to have this disease are more likely to develop it as well. Similarly, those aged 20-50, females, victims of stressful situations, and rheumatic disease sufferers are more than likely to develop fibromyalgia.
As mentioned above, since there is still no fixed test to determine and diagnose fibromyalgia, doctors often dismiss it as an ‘imaginary’ disease leaving patients to suffer alone. In order to diagnose, doctors usually consider whether the patient has been suffering through body pain for three months or more. In the past, 18 specific pain points would be pressed in order to determine if pain was present, however this method has long since been discontinued.
According to the Mayo Clinic, fibromyalgia can best be treated through a mixture of medications such as pain relievers, antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs, and therapy such as counselling. Occupational, and physical, and lifestyle changes such as eating healthy, exercising, and reducing stress are also believed to relieve symptoms.