New Fibromyalgia Research
Recent research has linked the pain of fibromyalgia to small nerve fiber neuropathy, which means painful damage to a certain part of nerves. This could be ground-breaking, as fibromyalgia has previously been linked to nerve dysfunction, but not as actual nerve damage.
Researchers examined the small fibers in different areas of the body using three different methods: sensory testing, pain response, and skin biopsy.
They were compared with between people with fibromyalgia, those with depression, and healthy subjects.
They determined that people with fibromyalgia had:
Impaired small fiber function that lead to increased temperature sensitivity;
Sensory irregularities in the feet, face, and hands;
Lower total nerve fibers and fewer regenerating nerve fibers in the skin;
Fewer unmyelinated nerve fiber bundles in the skin, but normal levels of myelinated nerve fibers.
Researchers concluded that all three testing methods support the idea of impaired small fiber function, and therefore a high likelihood of neuropathic pain, in fibromyalgia.
The fibers in the skin, organs, and peripheral nerves are called C fibers or small fibers. Their job is to provide sensation for your skin and to control autonomic function - all the automatic jobs your body, like regulating heart rate, breathing, and body temperature. Damage to these nerves is called peripheral neuropathy.
This could be an extremely important avenue of research. Doctors understand neuropathic pain. It's common in diabetes and as a result of nerve damage. It's a concrete explanation for our pain, which is currently classified as "poorly understood".
Neuropathy in Fibromyalgia makes sense. It explains why medications known to improve neuropathy, such as Lyrica (pregabalin), work for some of us. It also explains the nature of our pain and the way it moves around.
It also raises a new question - what is damaging our small fibers? Is it our immune systems, which would mean fibromyalgia is autoimmune? Do we lack an enzyme that aids in axon growth and repair? Is it a problem with cellular metabolism?
Let's hope that researchers start asking those questions and looking for answers, because if it truly is nerve damage - and not just dysfunction - it also brings us better credibility with professionals along with more concrete targets for treatment.
There can never be any more suspicion with Doctors suggesting it’s all in our heads, it also brings definitive diagnosis to our table. Pip, ESA and many more aids to help us will be easier to apply for and maintain.
Life for fibromyalgia sufferers will certainly improve should this direction of research progress.