Recent research reveals that people with fibromyalgia have widespread inflammation in the brain.
“Finding an objective neurochemical change in the brain of people who are used to being told that their problems are imaginary is quite important,” explained the study’s lead author, Marco Loggia. He is associate director of the Center for Integrative Pain Neuroimaging at Harvard Medical School.
The new research used an advanced imaging test called positron emission tomography (PET) and examined 31 people with fibromyalgia and 27 healthy “controls” from Boston and Stockholm, Sweden.
Dr. Harry Gewanter, a professor at the American College of Rheumatology, agreed that the findings could provide comfort to patients.
“There is a large amount of stigma associated with chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia. I think many people will feel much better knowing that there are physiological changes that they can find, “Gewanter said.
Fibromyalgia causes pain throughout the body, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. UU The condition also causes sleep problems, fatigue and difficulty with thinking and memory.
The disorder affects about 4 million Americans, the CDC reports. The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, although the researchers said it is probably a disease of the central nervous system. Medications and lifestyle modifications can help control the condition.
All the volunteers in the study underwent PET scans. Patients with fibromyalgia in Boston were heavier than healthy controls in Boston and those in Stockholm with fibromyalgia. The researchers said that this was the only significantly different variable between the two groups.
When the researchers compared the scans of people with fibromyalgia with healthy controls, they saw more inflammation in the immune cells of the brain (glia) in people with fibromyalgia.
Loggia said the findings could lead to better ways to test fibromyalgia treatments to see if they reduce inflammation. It is also possible that this finding will eventually help researchers discover the cause of the disorder.
Gewanter said that this study gives scientists a number of possible directions. One is to be able to follow a treatment to see how well it works. Another is possibly developing ways to intervene with new treatments.
Now, the treatment focuses on medication and lifestyle changes. According to the CDC, people with fibromyalgia are advised to try to exercise for 30 minutes every day of the week. And establishing regular sleep habits can help, as well as reduce stress as much as possible, perhaps through yoga or meditation.