Study: Fibromyalgia Is an Autoimmune Disorder, New Treatments Possible

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Over 3 million cases of fibromyalgia are diagnosed yearly, yet it is poorly understood. However, a new study has provided compelling evidence the painful disease is an autoimmune disorder, suggesting new forms of treatment.

Shot of tired young woman with neck and back pain standing in the living room at home.
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Understanding fibromyalgia and its effects

Despite the more than 3 million new cases of fibromyalgia diagnosed each year, this painful and debilitating condition has remained poorly understood by medical science.

There is no cure for the disorder, which is chronic, lasting for years or can persist a lifetime. It affects women more often than men.

Some of the most prominent symptoms that characterize this disorder are widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, muscle weakness, heightened sensitivity to pain, as well as issues with memory, attention, concentration, ability to focus, and mood, which causes emotional distress for some sufferers, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The cause of fibromyalgia is also unclear, with experts identifying probable triggering factors like genetics, infections, and physical or emotional events, such as injuries or prolonged psychological stress.

In terms of treatment, medical practitioners simply do their best to control the symptoms. This is done mainly through medications, while sometimes exercise, relaxation, and stress-reduction may help.

Study indicates fibromyalgia is an autoimmune condition

A study published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation appears to provide compelling evidence that fibromyalgia may be an autoimmune disorder. If this turns out to be true, the finding could open up new ways to successfully treat the condition.

Patients who suffer from fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), one of the most common chronic pain conditions, have long complained of poor results or none at all from existing therapies.

The researchers injected mice with antibodies taken from forty-four people who were living with fibromyalgia, Science Alert reported. The scientists found that the mice injected with the antibodies had all the classic fibromyalgia symptoms such as muscle weakness, tenderness and increased sensitivity to heat and cold. In addition, the pain-sensing nerves of the mice became far more sensitive.

In summary, the researchers concluded that their findings indicate that immunoglobulin antibodies are the main driver of the illness, IFL Science reported. They believe the research confirms the autoimmune mechanism behind fibromyalgia.

One of the authors of the study said that the results indicate a new approach to how medical practitioners treat fibromyalgia.

“Previous exploration of therapies has been hampered by our limited understanding of the illness,” said the author of the study, Dr. David Andersson. “This should now change.”

Those treatment methods “have proven ineffective in most patients and have left behind an enormous unmet clinical need,” Dr. Andersson added. “Establishing that fibromyalgia is an autoimmune disorder will transform how we view the condition and should pave the way for more effective treatments for the millions of people affected.”