It is estimated that persons suffering from fibromyalgia sometimes wait an average of five years to receive an accurate diagnosis. Because the condition is difficult to diagnose, many times it goes misdiagnosed or undiagnosed for years. Researchers at Ohio State are focused on developing better testing to help remove some of the barriers to diagnosis.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition. Symptoms are widespread and include muscle pain, joint pain, and fatigue. Some individuals may also have tingling sensations and extremities or joint stiffness. Not everybody experiences all of these symptoms — many who do experience the worst of them at night, which can cause sleep disturbances.
There are no lab or imaging tests for fibromyalgia, and current diagnostics rely on patient history, x-rays, and bloodwork. These are usually conducted after many other illnesses have been ruled out because fibromyalgia symptoms are common to a vast number of maladies. Additionally, it’s difficult to diagnose because the presence of other conditions seem to explain away symptoms while the condition persists, undetected.
To better diagnose fibromyalgia, researchers need to identify biomarkers for the condition. This could lead to improved blood tests for diagnosis.
Ohio State University may have done just that. What they found was a molecular signature unique to fibromyalgia patients. The technique used to read a ’patient’s cells is called vibrational spectroscopy. This process revealed several characteristic proteins, sugars, and nucleic acids, indicative of fibromyalgia.
In addition to being the future of fibromyalgia diagnostics, this type of testing can also reveal the severity of the disorder amongst individuals.
While diagnosing fibromyalgia has a long way to go, so too does fibromyalgia treatment. Currently, people are advised to increase physical exercise, manage stress, and incorporate relaxation techniques into their lifestyle. Other somewhat hopeful therapies like massage, acupuncture, and stretching may also be advised.
For more severe cases, doctors may prescribe medications for pain or inflammation. Although all these treatments may help, fibromyalgia currently cannot be cured. For the millions of people with this chronic condition, this means they may suffer the associated brain fog and pain for a lifetime.