We do not know exactly what causes fibromyalgia, but now, thanks to the French researchers, we have an idea. Fibromyalgia may be linked to abnormal blood flow in certain parts of the brain.
Dr. Eric Guedj of the Hospital-University Center of Timone in Marseille, France, was the principal investigator in a blood perfusion study (abnormal blood flow) as a possible cause of fibromyalgia.
Previous imaging studies of patients with [fibromyalgia] have demonstrated higher than normal cerebral blood flow (cerebral perfusion) in some areas of the brain and below normal in other ”
“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 in other areas,” Dr. Guedj explains in a press release about the study. “After performing whole-brain scans on the participants, we used a statistical analysis to study the relationship between functional activity in even the smallest area of brain and various parameters related to pain, disability, and anxiety / depression.”
Dr. Guedj’s team studied 30 women, 20 with fibromyalgia and 10 without it. The women responded to various questions used in the medical research field to quantify such things and how severely fibromyalgia limits patients’ lives.
Then the women underwent single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT scan) -a special kind of brain scan. The researchers analyzed the women’s answers to the questionnaires in conjunction with analyzing their brain scans.
So What Did They Find in This Fibromyalgia Study?
Dr. Guedj’s team confirmed that women with fibromyalgia had abnormal blood flow in two areas of the brain:
They have too much blood flow (called hyperperfusion) in the area of the brain that is supposed to interpret the intensity of pain.
They have too little blood flow (called hypoperfusion) in the area of the brain that is involved in the emotional response to pain.
Additionally, Dr. Guedj’s team found that if participant’s fibromyalgia symptoms were severe (as noted by the questionnaires), then the degree of blood perfusion was severe. In other words, the severity of the syndrome correlates with the severity of abnormal blood flow.
Interestingly, the team did not find the correlation between blood perfusion and the participants’ levels of anxiety or depression. It is important to note that previously, it has been suggested that fibromyalgia pain is linked to depression: fibromyalgia patients experience such as pain in part because of depression or anxiety.
So What Does This Mean for Fibromyalgia Sufferers?
Dr. Guedj sums up nicely in a press release: “This study demonstrates that these patients exhibit modifications of brain perfusion not found in healthy subjects and reinforces the idea that fibromyalgia is a ‘real disease / disorder’.”
In other words, this study could help move fibromyalgia from disease to disease status because it has found a possible cause of fibromyalgia symptoms. Currently, fibromyalgia is considered a syndrome rather than a disease because there is no identifiable cause of it. Instead, there are signs and symptoms that point to a fibromyalgia diagnosis: for example, widespread pain, fatigue, trouble sleeping, and headaches.
The study could help the medical community better understand fibromyalgia and how to effectively treat it.
Fibromyalgia is a complex disease that affects 3 million to 10 million Americans, most of them (only women in the French study were therefore used). Currently, no test is used to diagnose fibromyalgia; physicians should diagnose it by eliminating other possible diseases / syndromes and paying attention to the patient’s symptoms. This SPECT study can objectively confirm the diagnosis of fibromyalgia.