(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – Many of the estimated four million or more Americans living with the widespread pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia struggle to get a diagnosis and effective treatment. Because lab tests often appear normal in these patients, doctors must rely on patients’ symptoms, results from physical exams and the exclusion of other diseases to come to a fibromyalgia diagnosis. Now, researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center finally have biologic evidence of the disease through a new experimental testing method that can quickly and accurately diagnose fibromyalgia, while differentiating it from other chronic pain conditions.
“Being able to see the biological differences in the blood of those with fibromyalgia compared to those with other conditions like lupus, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis finally gives patients validation of their symptoms,” said Dr. Kevin Hackshaw lead author of the study and associate professor of rheumatology at Ohio State. “Not only does this help us direct treatment, but also prevents the use of unnecessary medications, like opiates, that don’t alleviate fibromyalgia pain and can lead to addiction.”
The laboratory test was developed in a unique collaboration between rheumatologists and the Ohio State food science and technology department. Researchers found that the same technology used to quickly analyze different components in food, like protein and fat, can also analyze chemicals in the blood. “Each person’s blood is unique, like a fingerprint, and this test can show us the intricate details of that fingerprint,” said Dr. Luis Rodriguez-Saona, co-author of the study and professor of food science and technology at Ohio State. “Now, we can see that certain patterns in those fingerprints indicate fibromyalgia, while different ones signal other conditions.”
Future research will validate the test further and hopefully lead to a widely available blood test that can be used in doctors’ offices so that patients can receive a diagnosis in minutes with just a finger prick. Identifying these biological characteristics may also help experts develop novel therapies to treat fibromyalgia.