According to Medical News Today, fibromyalgia is no longer an “invisible” syndrome. Citing a study reporter in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine, the article reports that researchers in France were able to detect functional abnormalities in the brain after performing brain scans on 20 women diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Those scans were then compared with scans from 10 healthy women. See “Fibromyalgia Can No Longer Be Called an Invisible Syndrome.”
The diagnosed brain abnormalities directly correlated with the severity of the disease, as reported by the women on questionnaires they filled out in advance of the scan. The results of the study disprove the widely held belief that fibromyalgia is caused by depression. The study found that the brain abnormalities were “independent of anxiety and depression status.”
The study follows news earlier this year that a Stockton, Calif., surgeon patented a process to objectively determine the presence of chronic pain. See, “Surgeon’s Patent Removes the Subjectivity from Chronic Pain.”
Dr. Robert England uses an MRI image to compare the brain image of a person in chronic pain receiving stimulation such as a finger squeeze or mild electric shot to the brain image of a healthy person undergoing the same stimulation.
For people with fibromyalgia, England said his studies showed 13 areas of pain when the patient’s thumb was squeezed. When a pain-free person’s thumb was squeezed, only one area of pain appeared in the brain.
When these tests will be widely available – and whether insurance health plans will accept them as valid documentation – is still unknown. But they are encouraging developments for people with fibromyalgia who are often accused of fabricating the severity of their illnesses so that the insurer can deny disability or health benefits.