New study: Blood test to detect fibromyalgia pain syndrome

US researchers claim they can detect fibromyalgia by a blood test. Norwegian researcher is skeptical.

Fibromyalgia chronic pain condition connective tissue muscles ligaments tendon diagnosis patients fibromyalgia rheumatoid arthritis lupus vibration spectroscopy blood tests

Researchers in the United States claim they are developing a blood test that can detect fibromyalgia. (Photo: Shutterstock)Karoline Spanthus Bjø May 07, 2019DISEASES

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition affecting connective tissue, muscles, ligaments and tendons.

The diagnosis cannot be made by radiographs, blood tests or tissue samples. 

Now, the researchers behind a new study hope their findings can contribute to a simple and rapid diagnosis.

The American researchers claim that they have discovered a so-called molecular signature in the blood of patients with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia patients are often misdiagnosed or may not be diagnosed at all.

The lead researcher behind the study, Kevin Hackshaw, hopes the finding will be a turning point for patients and that it will be easier to get the right treatment as well as good advice on how to manage chronic pain.

‘We found clear metabolic patterns in the blood of 12 patients with fibromyalgia. It brings us closer to a blood test than we’ve ever been, “Kevin Hackshaw said in a press release.

Difficult to diagnose

In order to diagnose fibromyalgia, doctors rely on what patients tell themselves about their symptoms.

The physician performs a physical assessment of the patient’s pain, focusing on specific pressure points (tender points).

“At present, fibromyalgia is incurable. Although treatment is limited to training, training and antidepressants, there are many benefits to an accurate diagnosis, “says Kevin Hackshaw.

A diagnosis can rule out other illnesses, confirm that the patient’s pain and symptoms are real, and make it easier for doctors to recognize what it is and thus find appropriate treatment.

“There’s nothing worse than being in a gray area where you don’t know what kind of illness you have,” Luis Rodriguez-Saona, who is also a researcher behind the study, said in a press release.

About 3 to 5 percent of Norway’s population suffers from fibromyalgia. About 90 percent of them are women. The reason why some people develop the disorder is unknown.

Found clear patterns

“About 40 percent of patients who receive severe pain medication due to chronic pain meet the criteria for a fibromyalgia diagnosis. Painkillers certainly do not improve the disease: in fact, it often makes the disease worse, ”says Luis Rodriguez-Saona.

The next step for the researchers is a major clinical test to see if the new study’s findings can be replicated.

Participated in the study:

  • 50 people with fibromyalgia
  • 29 with rheumatoid arthritis
  • 19 with osteoarthritis 
  • 23 with lupus

The researchers examined each participant’s blood samples using a technique called vibration spectroscopy.

They discovered several clear patterns that consistently separated the participants with fibromyalgia from the other participants with other but similar disorders.

The researchers first analyzed the blood samples from the participants with various diseases that they already knew about. 

This way they could see if each diagnosis had a distinct pattern.

The other blood tests were tested without the researchers ‘knowledge of the participants’ diagnoses.

The researchers managed to find the disease in question from the blood tests.

In the next round, researcher Luis Rodriguez-Saona wants to study 150 to 200 people per disease group to see if their findings work in a larger and more diverse group.

Maybe the research work can lead to the identification of a particular protein, acid or combination of molecules linked to fibromyalgia, says Luis Rodriguez-Saona.

Kevin Hackshaw’s goal is to have a test ready for use within five years.

Skeptical of the result

Professor Egil Andreas Fors at the Department of Social Medicine and Nursing at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) is skeptical of the result.

“We do not have to reject it completely, but it has not been mentioned further in the academic environment,” Egil Andreas Fors told , ‘s Norwegian sister site.

Among other things, the new study claims to be able to differentiate between fibromyalgia and other diseases.

“There has been little research into this, so there is not much else we can compare the findings with,” explains Egil Andreas Fors.

It is still difficult to distinguish between fibromyalgia and other diseases. Many patients may have multiple illnesses at the same time or develop one after another over time.

“It is difficult to say whether a patient has arthritis or fibromyalgia, because you can have both at once. Therefore, it is difficult to deduce anything solely from a blood test, ‘says Egil Andreas Fors.

However, he believes the study is interesting and that it can make a good contribution to the further research.

“The study does not deal with a large amount of material, but the results are promising. It will be exciting if they are able to repeat the results with a larger amount of material, ”concludes Egil Andreas Fors.

© . Translated by Stephanie Lammers-Clark.

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