Fibromyalgia (FM or FMS) is the most common generalised pain disorder. It is characterised by chronic muscular pain, unrefreshing sleep and fatigue, gastronintestinal problems, cognitive issues and a host of other symptoms.
Over the years numerous hypotheses have been forthcoming as to the possible cause of Fibromyalgia, yet to date there have been no real advances beyond the treatment and management of symptoms. Now, however, there may have been a real breakthrough. The journal PLOS ONE has recently published the results of study at the University of Texas which demonstrates a strong correlation between Fibromyalgia and insulin resistance.
Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas which regulates our blood sugar level. If our body loses its ability to produce insulin altogether, we are suffering Diabetes Type 1. Where our body cannot produce enough insulin and/or its ability to respond to insulin is impaired (known as insulin resistance), we are suffering Diabetes Type 2.
People suffering diabetes will be familiar with the A1C test. This is a blood test which initially helps to diagnose the condition and thereafter is used by doctors to monitor a person’s management of their blood sugar levels. It is usually undertaken every three months and reflects average blood-sugar levels over that time. The test works by looking at haemoglobin A1c, a blood cell protein that binds to glucose.
In the recent study it was found that people with Fibromyalgia could also be identified by their A1C levels. Researcher, Dr Miguel Pappolla, said:
“Earlier studies discovered that insulin resistance causes dysfunction within the brain’s small blood vessels. Since this issue is also present in fibromyalgia, we investigated whether insulin resistance is the missing link in this disorder…We showed that most — if not all — patients with fibromyalgia can be identified by their A1C levels”.
In light of the considerable amount of research undertaken into Fibromyalgia, the researchers were puzzled as to why this connection had not been identified before. They concluded that “the main reason for this oversight is that many patients with FM show A1C values currently considered to be within the normal range; however, this is the first study to analyze the data in an age-stratified manner.”
Dr Pappolla explained that “Adjustment for the patients’ age was critical in highlighting the differences between patients and control subjects.”
Once they had established the connection between insulin resistance and Fibromyalgia, the researchers then found they were able to treat Fibromyalgia-related pain by using Metformin. This is a relatively inexpensive drug used commonly to help people suffering Diabetes Type 2 to regulate their blood sugar level. For some participants, taking Metformin proved quite staggering in terms of the degree of pain relief achieved.
It is hoped that for many Fibromyalgia sufferers, these findings may lead quickly to a drastic reduction in the need for stronger painkillers, including opioids. Not only will that result in fewer drug-related side-effects, it will save a huge amount of money in the cost of prescription medication.