touches multiply into severe pain for FMS patients
By Eric Benjamin Lowe
millions of Americans who suffer from FMS live with a two-edged sword:
excruciating pain, accompanied by the doubts of many who dismiss it as a made-up
illness invented by a troubled mind.
at the University of Florida and else-where are beginning to piece together
clues that reveal the physical basis of the puzzling syndrome that causes severe
fatigue and aches, and has defied easy diagnosis.
scientists have found an abnormal central nervous system reaction in those with
fibromyalgia-the body magnifies ordinary repetitive stimulation into an
experience of crippling pain.
is particularly important because it has been unclear if fibromyalgia was just
an imagined illness or a real syndrome," said Dr. Roland Staud, an
associate professor of medicine at UF's College of Medicine who also is
affiliated with the UF Brain Institute. "We now have good evidence that
shows that it's not a psychological abnormality, but that there is a
neurological abnormality present."
was recently awarded a National Institutes of Health grant worth nearly $800,000
to continue his studies for the next four years. Their goal is to develop a
better understanding of the condition, with an eye toward improving diagnostic
tests and treatments.
reported an estimated 3.7 million people in the USA (primarily women diagnosed
during their 30s and 40s) have FMS. A
chronic illness with no known cure, its cause
also is unknown. Researchers
have theorized that an injury to the central nervous system or an infectious agent might be responsible for triggering it in people who
have inherited susceptibility. Symptoms
include persistent and widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue and
tenderness in the neck, spine, shoulders and hips.
and colleagues found the central nervous system abnormality by conducting a
series of repetitive stimulation tests on people with the syndrome as well as
healthy research participants. The tests involved repeatedly placing warm plates
on their hands and arms. The healthy participants felt the sensation but did not
report it as pain. For those with
fibromyalgia, however, the sensation would magnify with each repetition into an
experience of crippling and unbearable pain.
a sensation signal reaches the spinal cord, the signal can be omitted, changed
or augmented," Staud said. "If it is augmented, then something that is
innocuous, such as pressure on the skin, can then be perceived as a painful
LeMay, one of Staud's patients, has been battling FMS since 1993. The
30-year-old Lake City resident said the pain starts in one area and usually
spreads, sometimes becoming overwhelming.
imagine if someone had taken a baseball bat and beaten me with it, that's got to
be what it feels like," she said. "Depending on the day, I'll just
move out of the way if someone tries to touch me."
pain of fibromyalgia often interferes with a person's working life.
are people who are diagnosed in their productive years. Many have personal or
professional problems adjusting to the pain experience," Staud said.
"The illness makes some people feel dysfunctional because they can't do the
activities they once did."
condition can worsen from stress and inadequate sleep, Staud said. Because
living with fibromyalgia often causes stress, and pain makes sleeping difficult,
a vicious cycle develops.
said many people dismiss her condition, not understanding the "huge
difference" between her severe fatigue and the healthy person's occasional
tiredness. "When this fatigue would come about, it's almost like a weight
being dropped on you, and you can't function anymore," she said. LeMay said
she is hopeful that Staud's research will lead to more effective treatment for
fibromyalgia patients and better understanding by the general public.
our society, you either get better or you die, and fibromyalgia patients don't
do that," she said. "We don't fit in the mold, so people don't know
what to do with us."
Taken from InnerSelf, at www.innerself.com
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