People with fibromyalgia are often misdiagnosed or have to go years without a diagnosis which sees them having to live with excruciating pain and fatigue, said lead researcher Dr Kevin Hawkshaw, a professor at the university’s College of medicine.
Doctors currently rely on patient-reported symptoms in order to diagnose fibromyalgia including their experience of pain.
No clear cut test… until now
That’s meant that there has been no clear cut, easy to use tool for diagnosis – until now.
“We found clear reproducible metabolic patterns in the blood of dozens of patients with fibromyalgia,” Dr Hawkshaw said.
“This brings us closer to a blood test than we have ever been.”
Like all chronic conditions, fibromyalgia is incurable and treatment is often hit and miss with patients being put on antidepressants and very strong, addictive painkillers.
“Most physicians nowadays don’t question whether fibromyalgia is real, but there are still skeptics out there,” Dr Hackshaw explained.
Symptoms of fibromylgia
People often think that fibromyalgia just causes pain but the condition can result in a number of debilitating life-changing symptoms.
Other signs can include:
sensitivity to weather changes
“When you look at chronic pain clinics, about 40 percent of patients on opioids meet the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia.
“Fibromyalgia often gets worse, and certainly doesn’t get better, with opioids.”
New test will speed up diagnosis
The new study included 50 people with fibromyalgia, 29 with rheumatoid arthritis, 19 suffering with osteoarthritis and 23 with lupus.
Scientists then examined the blood samples from every participant, measuring the energy levels of molecules.
They found that there were clear patterns in the blood of patients with fibromyalgia that made them distinct from those with the other disorders.
Scientists analysed blood samples – first from participants whose disease status they knew and then looking at the rest of the samples blindly without knowing which blood belonged to which disease.
Study co-author Luis Rodriguez-Saona, called the initial results “ remarkable”.
“If we can help speed diagnosis for these patients their treatment will be better and they’ll likely have better outlooks.
“There’s nothing worse than being in a grey area where you don’t know what disease you have.
The next step, the authors say, is to conduct a larger study – this time looking at up to 200 subjects per disease group, to see if their findings are correct on a grander scale.
Because many sufferers are misdiagnosed or do not seek medical help it is unclear how many people suffer from the condition.
It is thought that up to two million people in the UK have fibromyalgia, with women being up to seven times more likely to have it than men.
The NHS suggest that nearly one in 20 people may have fibromyalgia to some degree.