Aside from being a painful condition, fibromyalgia poses an additional problem by being difficult to diagnose. Patients often have to wait for years until doctors rule out other possibilities because the main symptoms of fibromyalgia are similar to those observed in many conditions. However, researchers from Ohio State University have developed a simple, reliable test that could shorten the diagnostic process by up to five years.
The test requires only a few drops of blood, which can be obtained through a finger stick. The scientists behind the new test use a technology called infrared microspectroscopy, which can work on dried blood. The samples used in the pilot study came from 14 people with a fibromyalgia diagnosis, 15 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and 12 with osteoarthritis (OA). The other two conditions were selected due to the similar symptoms they produce and the greater ease in diagnosing them. The research team then proceeded to “train” a powerful, specialised microscope to detect the molecular pattern in blood samples from fibromyalgia patients. After the training phase, the microscope proved capable of distinguishing fibromyalgia from RA and OA. When blinded samples were entered into the equipment, it succeeded in identifying each condition without fail. According to Tony Buffington, senior author of the study report, this accuracy is of particular importance and, while more numbers are needed, the results demonstrate the effectiveness of the technique.
The scientists also studied some chemicals with the potential to act one day as fibromyalgia biomarkers. However, Buffington noted that further research was required to identify the molecules that create the spectral patterns.