GAINESVILLE---The millions of Americans who suffer from fibromyalgia 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.
But researchers at the University of Florida and elsewhere 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.
UF 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.
"This 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."
Staud, who presented his research findings at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology last November, recently was awarded a National Institutes of Health grant worth nearly $800,000 to continue his studies for the next four years. Donald Price, a UF professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery, and Charles Vierck, a UF professor of neuroscience, are collaborating on the research. Their goal is to develop a better understanding of the condition, with an eye toward improving diagnostic tests and treatments.
An estimated 3.7 million people in the United States -- primarily women who
are diagnosed during their 30s and 40s -- have fibromyalgia, according to
the NIH. A chronic illness with no known cure, its cause also is not known.
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 p
Contact: Eric Benjamin Lowe
University of Florida