Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Fibromyalgia Blood Test

It hit the business wire a few weeks back a blood test which detects Fibromyalgia has been developed, registered with the FDA and is currently being sold. Holy shazam a-lam-a-ding-dong...WHAT! With rapt attention I poured over the clinical abstract and scientific research to get a grasp on what on earth had been unearthed. As it stands Fibromyalgia is a diagnosis of exclusion based on a collection of symptoms reported by the patient. There is no conclusive test to either confirm diagnosis or rule it out. Fibromyalgia symptoms vary drastically from patient to patient, people respond individually to different treatment methods and modern medicine is still searching for the cause and mechanism of all this mayhem. Well The University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, in conjunction with a biomedical company EpicGenetics, says they have figured it out. "In the past, FM was claimed to be a rheumatic, neurologic or psychiatric disease despite the fact that there were no objective links to any of those pathways. Our findings uncovered evidence that FM is instead an immunologic disorder." BMC Clinical Pathology.

So what exactly is Fibromyalgia, according to this groundbreaking discovery? I desperately want to know what the hell caused my entire world to implode so I did a significant amount of research to figure out what this study revealed. In the simplest terms, protein molecules produced by white blood cells (cytokines) in Fibromyalgia patients suffer from a dysregulation disorder. They are supposed to send messages via an inflammation response to alert the body when something is wrong so the body can fix itself. Just one component of the immune system at work. But in Fibromyalgia patients these protein molecules are depressed. This immune development disruption makes Fibromyalgia patients more vulnerable to stress. And the perfect storm is set into motion... 

Now let me clarify the word stress here. This isn't stress as in, "Oh my God I am so stressed out!" It is stress like when a doctor tells a patient to come in for a "stress test." They are strapped with electrodes, hooked up to machines and made to run a marathon on a treadmill to measure the effect of stress on their body. Okay maybe not a marathon but you get my drift. A fundamental building block of physics discovered in 1660 called Hooke's Law explains stress as the distribution of external force on a material, resulting in strain. It wasn't until the 1920's stress became associated with psychological or biological mental strain. So let's dispel the confusion of the chicken or the egg. A person with Fibromyalgia has immune patterns already present that cause stress to wreak havoc on their nervous system. Yes, the "Oh my God I am so stressed out!" kind is a valid contributor, but so are a million other sources of external force on cells and molecules and peptides and lymphokines and whatever else exists inside a human body to make it a human body. Like I said, a perfect storm.

Clearly I am more impressed by the actual mechanism discovered unique to Fibromyalgia patients than any test which can tell me if I do or don't have it. Scanning the posts of my fellow bloggers tells me I am not alone in this skepticism. See cytokines have been a working theory of research for decades and are known offenders in a slew of other ailments. What this study gives us is the first way to actually measure a difference between Fibromyalgia patients and healthy or healthy/depressed controls. It's a big win, the first breadcrumb of a clue conclusively showing a scientific difference in Fibro patients. But like many things in life, conclusive proof opens up far more questions than provides answers. Is this immune dysregulation true for all people diagnosed with Fibromyalgia? All 12.3 million of us in the USA alone? How well does it differentiate between Fibromyalgia and RA, Lupus or a gazillion other immune disorders and chronic pain conditions? Is there enough information available to wrap it up with a bow and stock it on blood pathologists shelves? Perhaps time, and significantly more research on a greater population of patients, will tell. 

Thanks for joining,

-Yahoo Finance Press Release

*Blog author has not been contacted or compensated by any of the linked resources and makes a claim neither for or against the FM/a Test.  


  1. I read all I could find about it too. I'm still skeptical but, I am hopeful that it may be something useful. A test would rule out other ailments and prove to the doubters that we really do have fibro. I love your blog. I always appreciate the info and stories you provide. Thank you,
    Bethany Cooley

  2. It's a start. I am cautiously optimistic. Thank you for not jumping into it as the newest miracle on the planet. Wanting real scientific data isn't really being skeptical, is it?

  3. Wow. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this, and PLEASE keep us posted. xoxo


  4. Leah, your skepticism is justified. I suggest you read Professor Fred Wolfe's blog, Fibromyalgia Perplex. In his estimation, the test exemplifies Junk Science-Junk Ethics. For what it is worth, I agree with him. John Quintner, Physician in Rheumatology and Pain Medicine

  5. I really appreciate the clear and concise way in which you described this new test and the science behind it. For me, I feel like its just another fibro wait and see... Too soon to know if this will really make a difference in everything we undergo.

  6. I agree, this "test" is new and in reality the sample size of people tested was under 200. I don't think we're all represented at that scale, however, if they have a direction to go in to better investigate out disease to better understand and treat it, then heck yeah!

  7. Hmmm. Wouldn't it be wonderful if this were true? Not just for dispelling the myths but if they know what is present that is causing the condition, they may be able to work out how to *deep breath* cure it.

  8. I don't know about this. Since I haven't read anything else about immune suppression being the main problem (although it is a problem for many of us), I wonder if it's just another way to show we have "nothing wrong"; hence, treatment not being covered.

  9. My entire life changed because of fibro. My Husband has remained faithful & supportive, as has my Mother, but my Daughter who was 16 @ the time told me she hated me & that I was faking it. (She's 20 now & our relationship is still strained). I had to remind myself that she effectively "lost" the Mother she had always known & had to grieve the loss as well as I had to grieve the loss of the life I had known. I had a calling to be a Nurse & save lives & was a respected Nurse Supervisor. Now I was in so much pain I could not think clearly & people began to notice that when at work I didn't always make sense. It felt good to have a name put to the symptoms, but even I doubted the reality of it as a Nurse when years earlier a co-worker said she had it. I thought to myself she was just lazy b/c nursing is such hard physical work. (Yep-I'm paying for that sin now) I want to take the test, I always want to find something to prove it is real to the doubters, I just have reservations about the accuracy & how detrimental that will be to those who test neg but have symptoms. However, 2 years ago I went in for sleep apnea testing, I had all of these electrodes sticking out of a surgical cap to record my brain waves from 10pm until 7am. The next day I found out that during my REM (the deepest) sleep my brain was registering pain waves so erratically that the EET tech called the Neurologist to come up to make sure I wasn't having a seizure. This helped me win my disability case in court; I have fibro so bad that my brain is registering pain even when I'm asleep. Thats pretty irrefutable evidence as far as my scientific mind is concerned.

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    1. I can't find another way to Comment except to reply to the last posted Comment.... any updates in 2yrs past on this thread or the test or implications?