We do not know what causes fibromyalgia, but today, as a result of research studies, we’ve got a clue. Fibromyalgia may be related to an abnormal blood flow in specific regions of the brain.
How is fibromyalgia associated with circulation in the brain?
Dr. Eric Guedj of the Centre Hospitalier-Universitaire de la Timone in Marseille, France, has been the lead researcher in a research examining blood perfusion (abnormal blood circulation) as a possible fibromyalgia cause.
Fibromyalgia Study Results
Past imaging studies of patients with fibromyalgia have shown above normal cerebral blood flow (brain perfusion) in some areas of the brain and below normal at other locations,” explains Dr. Guedj in a press release about the research.
“After performing whole brain scans around the participants, we used a statistical analysis to examine the relationship between practical activity in even the smallest area of the brain and various parameters associated with pain, disability, as well as anxiety and depression.”
Dr. Guedj’s team analyzed 30 women, 20 with fibromyalgia and 10 with no symptoms. The women answered various questionnaires used in the research field to quantify such things as pain levels and how badly fibromyalgia limits patients’ lives. Then the girls underwent single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), a special type of brain scan. With analyzing their brain scans, the researchers examined the women’s answers in combination.
What Did They Find in the Fibromyalgia Study?
Dr. Guedj’s group verified that women with fibromyalgia have abnormal blood flow in two areas of the brain:
- They have too much blood circulation (called hyperperfusion) at the area of the brain that’s supposed to interpret the intensity of pain.
- They have too little blood circulation (known as hypoperfusion) in the region of the brain that is involved in the psychological response to pain.
Additionally, Dr. Guedj’s team found that when a participant’s fibromyalgia symptoms were acute (as noticed by the research), then the level of blood perfusion was acute. To put it differently, the severity of the syndrome correlates with the intensity of blood circulation.
The group didn’t find a correlation between blood perfusion and the participants’ levels of depression or anxiety. That’s important to notice because previously, it’s been indicated that fibromyalgia pain is connected to depression: fibromyalgia patients experience widespread pain in part because of depression or nervousness.
What Exactly Does This Mean for Fibromyalgia Sufferers?
Dr. Guedj sums it up nicely in a media release: “This research shows that these patients exhibit modifications of brain perfusion not seen in healthy subjects and reinforces the idea that fibromyalgia is a ‘actual disease/disorder’.”
Quite simply, this study could help move fibromyalgia from syndrome to disease status since it has found a potential reason for fibromyalgia symptoms. Because there isn’t one cause of it fibromyalgia is known as a syndrome rather than a disease. Rather, there are signs and symptoms which point to a fibromyalgia diagnosis: for example, widespread pain, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and headaches. The analysis could help the medical community better understand fibromyalgia and how to effectively treat it.
Fibromyalgia is a complex condition affecting 3 million to 7 million Americans–many of these girls (hence why only women were utilized in the study). At the moment, there is healthcare professionals which have to diagnose it by eliminating other possible diseases/syndromes and by paying careful attention. This SPECT study could result in a way to confirm a fibromyalgia diagnosis.
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By Dr. Alex Jimenez
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