Blood Test Could Lead to Early Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia

One of the many frustrating things about fibromyalgia is getting it properly diagnosed. According to the American College of Rheumatology, fibromyalgia patients spend an average of three to five years before being diagnosed with the chronic pain disorder.

A simple new blood test could now be on the horizon to change that.

512px-USMC-110316-M-OU013-004“We’ve got really good evidence of a test that could be an important aid in the diagnosis of fibromyalgia patients,” says Tony Buffington, DVM, PhD, a professor of veterinary clinical sciences at Ohio State University and senior author of a study being published next month in the journal Analyst.

In a small study at Ohio State, researchers used a high powered infrared microscope to identify a pattern of molecules in the blood that is unique to fibromyalgia patients.

That pattern – a biological “fingerprint” of fibromyalgia – was then tested in a blind study against blood samples from patients with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.  The blood test confirmed, with 100% accuracy, which patients had fibromyalgia.

“It separated them completely, with no misclassifications,” Buffington said. “That’s very important. It never mistook a patient with fibromyalgia for a patient with arthritis. Clearly we need more numbers, but this showed the technique is quite effective.”

Buffington may be a veterinarian, but he’s spent the past 25 years studying interstitial cystitis (IC), a painful bladder disorder that occurs in both cats and humans. He identified a similar molecular “fingerprint” for IC that is shared by both cats and humans.

Because many IC sufferers also have fibromyalgia, Buffington decided to expand his research.

“I frankly don’t know much about fibromyalgia,” Bufffington is quick to admit. But he was curious to see if a fingerprint could be found for fibromyalgia in human blood.

Tony Buffington

Tony Buffington

Working with other colleagues at Ohio State, Buffington obtained blood samples from 14 fibromyalgia patients, 15 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and 12 with osteoarthritis. The other conditions were chosen because they produce similar symptoms as fibromyalgia, but are easier to diagnose.

The infrared microscope recognized a molecular pattern in the blood of fibromyalgia patients, a combination of amino acids that was different from those with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.

Even Buffington was surprised by the results.

“Frankly I didn’t believe it,” Buffington told National Pain Report. “It’s not that I disbelieved it, it’s just that we should all be skeptical of results like that. But we looked at it as carefully as we could and it kept coming back the same.”

He says more research is needed to precisely identify which molecules and amino acids are present in the blood and in what quantity.

“We can identify the pattern, but we haven’t clarified what the pattern is the result of, exactly which molecules and in what concentrations. That’s a fairly daunting task,” he says.

A simple blood test would be a godsend to fibromyalgia sufferers, who often spend years battling chronic pain, fatigue, insomnia and depression – and often the disbelief of physicians and loved ones.

“It takes, according to statistics, about five years to get a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. And five years in our medical meat grinder is more than most people can stand,” says Buffington.

“I think the earlier we diagnosis this, the more time, money and frustration we’re going to save for everybody.”

Studies have shown that a diagnosis alone often improves the health satisfaction and symptoms of fibromyalgia patients, and the cost of their medical treatment declines significantly once other health problems are ruled out.

“The importance of producing a faster diagnosis cannot be overstated, because patients experience tremendous stress during the diagnostic process. Just getting the diagnosis actually makes patients feel better and lowers costs because of reductions in anxiety,” said Kevin Hackshaw, MD, a rheumatologist, associate professor of medicine at Ohio State and lead author of the study.

Other researchers are intrigued by the Ohio State study.

“My first impression is that this is a powerful analytical technique,”   said Frank Rice, PhD, president and chief scientist of Integrated Tissue Dynamics LLC , where researchers recently reported that fibromyalgia patients had extra nerve fibers in the blood vessels of their hands.

“I think the authors would agree that the objective of the study was to determine whether they could discriminate between fibromyalgia patients versus patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.  They were successful in showing that the fibromyalgia profile was substantially different than that of the other two conditions,” Rice said in an email to National Pain Report.

But Rice also pointed out that the study did not compare fibromyalgia patients to normal subjects, so the blood analysis could not be called a diagnostic test without further research.

A company based in Santa Monica, California recently came out with a blood test that it claims can diagnose fibromyalgia with 93% accuracy.

EpicGenetics says its FM test looks for protein molecules in the blood called chemokines and cytokines, which are produced by white blood cells. Fibromyalgia patients, according to the company, have fewer of these proteins in their blood.

But critics say the same protein markers can also be found in people with other illnesses, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

The FM test costs $744 and is not covered by insurance. Results are usually available in about a week, according to EpicGenetics.

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32 Responses

  1. Rita says:

    At last!!

  2. donna fuqua says:

    I am so glad someone out there hasn’t forgotten about us fibromites! It did not take my Dr long to figure out I had fibromyalgia once my test results came back. I have been in extreme pain way before I began seeing him. I also have OA and it’s good to know they are able to distinguish the difference.
    I did not believe in fibromyalgia the beginning. My spouse believes if I would just exercise all the time I will be fine. Unfortunately he is one of the many that don’t understand how painful it is. I do try to exercise as much as possible, I do not see a difference in how I feel. It’s a real shock in life knowing you have something wrong inside with no cure. We cannot give up hope, it’s all we have for now.

  3. allison says:

    I guess I was lucky. I got diagnosed the first time I went to my doctor. I had complained to him for years about not having any energy and being tired all the time and he never did anything about that but when I went to him about the muscle spasms he made the diagnosis right off. He doesn’t like to give pain meds though. Says pain pills won’t help the kind of pain I have, whatever that means. I finally had to make an appointment and go see him just specifically for my knee and he finally put me on ultram. But that’s ok, I don’t want to be on narcotics. I take flexeril, neurontin, ultram, naproxen and mobic and I still hurt! I have heard too many bad things about Lyrica so I don’t expecially want to try that one if I don’t have to. I’m still working but not by choice. Some days I just don’t even want to get out of bed.

  4. terri herring says:

    As a 20 yr sufferer of fibro I would appreciate being put on your email list or newsletter list for updates. If you ever need a guina pig I would gladly volunteer. This disease is brutal and needs to be conquered soon before it takes us down for the count. In FL the DEA is putting a lot of heat on the doctors and pharmacies which is cutting off the narcotics to those of us who need it the most. This is a deadly disease that will kill by the hand of those who can no longer tolerate the constant beating of unbearable pain. We appreciate your dedication and work. Terri

  5. Danielle says:

    $744 for the blood test is a lot less than I paid for all the tests that came back negative, not to mention the multiple CAT scans, etc. that will probably cause cancer for me in the future.

    Belief of the physicians in the patient’s pain at the outset would be the most beneficial outcome of this type of test!

  6. Cheryl says:

    Please keep working hard to find a definitive blood test. Why? I have always been told we do not have a cause and until we do we cannot have a cure. We need a cure. For our sake as well as our children. There are many in my family who have Fibromyalgia and we are all type A personalities who work too hard and burn the candle at both ends. It is devastating to be forced into a life wear pain dictates everything you do (or cannot do) anymore. For those who don’t think it’s real…..I really hope you don’t end up with it. It never goes away. I tried all the mess in the beginning to TREAT the symptoms not the disease. Quickly I realized I would either deal with this in a natural way or becoming addicted to pain killers that really hinder your thought process. I chose the natural way and it is a lot more clearer and manageable than all the drugs. There really is another way. There are tough days but with a clear mind, massage, rest, hot showers, positive thoughts I have been able to manage the pain. I really am hoping and praying for a cause and cure for myself and all the many people who suffer from this.

  7. Julie Gouv says:

    My 10 year diagnosis of Fibro was a crock! I was finally treated with antibiotics for Lyme disease and Lyme co-infections, and my ‘fibro’ disappeared!

    Sounds like they’ve figured out a new way to diagnose Lyme.

    BTW- Lyme disease is a blood born infection cause by a spirochete bacteria. Fibro is a description of symptoms, a label, for a condition that is identical to Lyme, that they can find no cause for. Do the math.

  8. Pamela says:

    It’s exciting to know that there IS research being done to find a definitive test for Fibro. I’ve had Fibro for over 20 years, although my “official” diagnosis was only 3 years ago. I’ve been on Disability since Oct. 2009 as my Fibro and Chronic Fatigue rocketed out of control. Despite the cocktail of drugs that I take (including OxyNeo and Tramadol narcotics for pain, Cymbalta, Cesemet and Cyclobenzaprine), the most relief I’m able to get is a 3-4 on the pain scale (and I’d be off the charts without that cocktail).

    Anything new that comes up as a treatment for Fibro will be welcome – and I hope there WILL be new treatments discovered. What’s the sense in a test that confirms what you have, when there’s nothing that can really be done for you?

    Rest, healthy diet, exercise as you are able and stress management are the big areas where help with Fibro would be welcome. Pain and fatigue make it almost impossible to exercise, but without moving around, you simply increase your pain as your muscles start to atrophy from lack of use. Yes, exercise can make us hurt more…the goal is to find some type of activity you enjoy, like AquaFit (which is great for the joints and muscles).

    Fibro is a lifelong condition once you’ve developed it…I’ve not heard of anyone who’s been “cured” but the hope is still there. That’s my motto with this – there is always hope!!

  9. MiMi says:

    It is good that there is a test for FM….but the expense of it and it not being covered by the insurance will probably not allow people to use it. I know that a lot of us FMers are unable to work anyway. I guess it is good to know for sure that it is really FM that we have. Doctors do sometimes makes mistakes on things.

  10. Kay Redmon says:

    It would be wonderful if there was such a test available. I too have RA as well as FM & CFS. It took 4 years for a definite diagnosis to be made. Four years of life just wasted, going from Dr to Dr & each one giving a different diagnosis from Multiple Sclerosis to Encephalitis. Even being sent to see a Psychiatrist who did support the diagnosis of MS, but he did have thoughts of anorexia as well because of the weight loss. How do you eat, when you have constant nausea from the severity of the pain..It is a vicious cycle, one you wouldn’t want your worst enemy to go through.

  11. susan says:

    I received dx of chronic fatique 20+ yrs ago & did not believe it.
    DX’d w/ fibro 5 yrs later and thought it was b.s. Luckily the doctor was a very good one who convinced me that if I did not take care of the fibro it would turn into something worse. She explained that she believed the chronic fatigue which I left untreated had turned into fibro.
    So I was sufficiently convinced and do the best I can to live healthier and less stressful lifestyle. The amount of stress, rest, and sunlight/fresh air I get is directly related to my pain/functioning level. So that is becoming my own best current prescription.
    Everything else for pain, sleep, etc is just so sedating that it’s counterproductive. I will be happy when I am completely RX free.

  12. Val says:

    I wonder how many cases of “fibromyalgia” could be cured with antibiotics? My “polymyalgia” was cured with antibiotics (for Lyme).

  13. Alva says:

    Just to know for sure and have a real name that can be diagnosed instead of laughed at. So much pain and have even have one doctor report to social security disability that I was just morbidly obese and lazy. I was lucky enough to get back with a doctor that knew me from before that decided tests were needed to rule out all but fibromyalgia!

  14. gayle.pelham says:

    HI I agree with Deb moore
    W e need more on tabs that can help.
    Iam on gaberpitn its ok but need to take other painkillers to help.
    gayle

  15. Christine Ireland says:

    ,It took me seven yrs to be diagnosed, couldn’t explain what the pain felt like,the fatigue was and still is terrible. Even now with all the pain relief i have days it is hard to walk, days i just want to stay in bed and sleep and days and nights i can’t stay in bed because of the pain. I have now been referred to another dr that is more into the fibro, and am hoping to get more answers than what i am usually left with more questions. My mum waz also diagnosed with fibro two yrs ago, i am 49 she is 76.

  16. Katherine s. Thompson says:

    Very informative. Hope you come up with a test that is covered by insurance.

  17. Jacque says:

    So, am I to believe that the test for oa and fibro are two different tests? I thought I read that this test differentiates between the two. I have both…so not sure how the test would work. I’ve had fibro most of my life, all three of my kids had/have it, I have two grandchildren with it. I do believe the weakness for the disease can be passed on to your offspring. They may or may not come down with it, but in my case, it was 100%. My husband does not have it.

  18. Dana B says:

    Deb Moore I agree with you! I have rsd and fibrp and my quality of life is not good either! Some days I can hardly function! When I get my prescriptions filled and get all the narcotics I have to take, I notice being looked at in a different way!! Without those meds I don’t think I could handle the pain at all! I hope someday they come up with something to really help those of us with fibro and rsd!!!

  19. jan says:

    hoping they also come up with the cause for fibro too. i suspect for my daughter it s an autoimmune reaction from vaccines she got in her mid teens.

  20. Mary Smith says:

    I too went many years with Fibro but thank God after going to many doctors and being made to feel i was maybe crazy i found a great dr that said i wasn,t crazy and recogonized my symtoms as that of Fibro!

  21. Nancy says:

    What about people who have Fibromyalgia and Osteoarthritis like me? How would the blood tests show up then ? Would it say I only have osteoarthritis when in fact I have both ?

  22. Deb Moore says:

    i was one of the really lucky ones. i got my diagnoses in about a year. went to the dr. diagnosed me with depression and put me on prozac. (keep in mind my life was what i considered perfect at the time) Prozac helped a lot to relieve my symptoms. A year later the prozac quit working and i went back to the dr. Got the right diagnoses of fibro at that time. My problem hasn’t been that i couldn’t get a diagnoses it has been no one has wanted to treat it. i am lower than the scum of the earth because narcotics are the only thing that helps with the pain. The mental torture I have been put thru has resulted in someone that can barely cope with anything. i think it is great that there is now a test that can diagnoses fibro but until the medical community understand how it truly destroys a persons life and comes up with some treatments that truly relieve the symptoms those of us with fibro will still be second class citizens. even though i had a diagnoses 1/2 of the medical community still doesn’t believe in how bad fibro effects someones life. the really hard part about fibro is that some have it and manage to pretty much go on with life as normal, then there are those that can’t get enough relief from their symptoms to manage any quality of life. the myth that exercise will improve your quality of life is such a scam. if you can barely manage to walk to the bathroom how are you gonna exercise? come on there has to be a better answer than exercise. besides, before i got fibro i was so active i didn’t need a regular exercise program. i did wallpapering and painting for a living. what better exercise than climbing a ladder all day every day. then after work i coached my sons t-ball team so i pitched t-ball 3 to 4 nights a week as well as participated in everything to do with the game. now how do i add exercise on top of that? when would i have had time and just what good would an exercise program have done me? someone has to come up with something better than to exercise. what the drug companies don’t tell you is that at least 50% of the people with fibro either can’t take or get no relief from the 3 drugs approved for the treatment of fibro. i actually went insane on lyrica which caused a whole new set of problems on top of the fibro. so although it is great they are developing a true test for fibro unless more effective treatments are developed the test isn’t going to prove anything.

  23. RainstormAK says:

    Thank you for this interesting foray into diagnosing Fibromyalgia! It took me two years to be diagnosed. I didn’t now that I should feel so blessed about that time frame. Diagnosis does take a lot of the stress away. Please do a much larger study. God bless you.

  24. Jacquie Corron says:

    I’ve lost track of how long it took for my diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. I do remember that at one point my Dr said it sounded like Fibro, but I didn’t have the required number of points on my body that had severe pain. Guess what, by the next year I had more than enough and now I’ve been told that they don’t even consider the number of painful points for diagnosis. I was a Medical Technologist before I had to go on Medical Disability and intellectually I needed a definitive test result to confirm what my body already knew. I kept wondering if at least part of it was all in my head or if there was something I could do to change things. A test that would clearly diagnose Fibro vs Osteoarthritis (which I was diagnosed with much earlier) would have helped me deal with my feelings of guilt. I applaud Dr Buffington for his work toward this end and hope that with a better understanding of Fibro, a better treatment will follow.

  25. Gillian McCormick says:

    Thank so much for this work and the difference it will make for both IC and FM patients. Many Fibromyalgia patients are still mistreated by doctors. Your study seems thorough and offers a real improvement.
    Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Fibromyalgia have a significant overlap in patients as well as IC and ME having an overlap. I wonder if it may be possible to show a similar but unique pattern in patients with ME (chronic fatigue syndrome), this would be life altering for millions of patients.
    I thank you most sincerely for your very encouraging work.

  26. carol taylor says:

    was just wondering , will my children get it as my daughter is showing signs of it.

  27. Elena Duncan says:

    It took 10 years for me to be diagnosed with Fibro and I can say it was very stressful to not know what was wrong and to have family and colleagues at work say there was nothing wrong with me and it was all in my head. One doctor, which I don’t see anymore also said that and suggested I see a Psychiatrist.
    I finally found the right doctors for me and finally had some answers. But in the past 5 years I have also been diagnosed with Lupus and Dysautonomia. So now it’s even harder to tell which illness is causing which pain and sickness.
    I am however very pleased that this research may have a timely answer for many frustrated in pain people. Thank You for your work.

  28. Static says:

    From what this article says, it’s not about both disorders having the proteins. It’s the PATTERN of molecules. It’s like having two walls painted with the same color, but one wall is painted with up and down strokes, while the other is painted with side to side movements. The paint is the same, but the brush strokes are different.

    If you have RA or OA, but not fibro, then the pattern WON’T show up. But if you do have fibro, then the pattern WILL show up, whether you have RA or OA, or not.

    It’s like having two different puzzles. RA and/or OA is one puzzle, and FM is another puzzle. The pattern they’re looking for doesn’t show up in the RA or OA puzzles, so if it’s not in there, then there’s no FM. If the pattern does show up, then you have the FM puzzle, and you may or may not have the separate RA or OA puzzle as well.

  29. Shana N. says:

    In some ways this is very exciting and gives me some hope that someone is interested in figuring out this awfull condition and maybe just maybe the cure I have been praying for could be a possibility!
    On the other hand…..I understand needing and wanting a diagnosis and the correct diagnosis at that, but It doesn’t matter what you call it…..the main problem is that no one listens to us, if there is pain, treat it! If there is fatigue treat it! I guess a test will give us the PROOF that there us something wrong……but I have always known that! SMH……

  30. Wendy says:

    I have the same question as Sandy fernandez sheehy has . . . what about people with both RA or OA and Fibromyalgia? And I understand there are strides being made in distinquishing RA from OA in those who do not have the rh factor but have other symptoms of RA. It would be wonderful to have a blood test that insurance would pay for and did not cost almost $750! Accuracy is also important and it sounds as though Buffington is on the trail of such a test. Good. So very glad.

  31. Larry K says:

    I wonder how early someone can be tested for it? I don’t know a lot about fibro. It took me just over 6 years to get diagnosed though. I’m very concerned that I may pass it on to my kids. Does anyone know if fibro is something that is imbedded and, guaranteed to develop if you have that certain marker?

  32. sandy fernandez sheehy says:

    What about patients who have BOTH Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia, like I do? I am sero positive for RA, how would you diagnose Fibromyalgia in me if the proteins are found in both diseases?

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