Scientists Discover the Biological Basis for Fibromyalgia
Clinical investigators have found what they believe to be a biological basis for fibromyalgia within the skin. This discovery has the potential to change the foundation of modern fibromyalgia treatment as we know it, since current medications are designed to act solely within the patient’s brain.
Scientists from Integrated Tissue Dynamics LLD published their findings in the medical journal Pain Medicine. Their groundbreaking research was a part of an ongoing fibromyalgia clinical study (referred to as the Intidyn study) being conducted at the Albany Medical College. The research team uncovered a unique pathology within the skin of their female patients, one that could prove to be the biological basis of this cruel and mysterious disorder.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia can include fatigue, widespread muscle pain, sleeping problems and insomnia, morning stiffness, headaches, painful menstrual periods, numbness, tingling in the hands and feet, and cognitive issues sometimes known as “fibro fog.” It is estimated that at least 10 million Americans are living with fibromyalgia, and most of these people are women. The only subjects used in the Intidyn study were women.
At this time, the most commonly prescribed medications for fibromyalgia are analgesics, antidepressants, and anti-seizure drugs. Health care providers often encourage patients to make lifestyle adjustments in order to get more exercise, reduce stress levels, eat better, get better quality sleep, and ensure that they have enough energy to make it through the day’s activities. Other people who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia have found that activities like yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, and other forms of physical therapy can be extremely helpful for managing the symptoms of this disorder.
Current Fibro Medications Target Molecules in the Brain
Based on previous research, this team of clinical investigators already knew that modern fibro medications had been designed to work against molecules located in the brain. They also knew that there were similar molecules which impacted how the nerve endings located on blood vessels work. Their work has confirmed their own hypothesis that fibromyalgia could actually be based on a pathology which involved the blood vessels.
With the help of special microscope, the team looked at skin biopsies taken from the palms of their study subjects. They found a spike in sensory nerve fibers at specific areas which housed tiny muscular valves in the skin’s blood vessels. These valves are known as arteriole-venule (AV) shunts, and they can be found in the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.
What Shunts Can Tell Us About the Pathology of Fibromyalgia
The shunts located in the hand help to regulate body temperature by opening up and permitting some blood to bypass the capillaries, which allows for the hands to retain heat or grow colder. Shunts tend to be way more active during cold weather, which could explain why people with fibromyalgia are so sensitive to the cold. This pathology that the scientists have discovered among the AV shunts could explain the widespread muscle pain, achiness, insomnia, and fibro fog that has been linked to this disorder.
In any case, this groundbreaking discovery should bring much emotional relief to the millions of people who are living with this mysterious disorder, especially when some doctors have refused to believe that fibromyalgia is a real medical condition. Having this new target for the next stage of treatments that will be developed for fibromyalgia is an immensely important step and doubtless a source of joy for many patients.