New relief for fibromyalgia sufferers

April 17, 2009 11:12:46 AM PDT
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition which affects as many as 10-million Americans. It's noted by pain at even the slightest touch, but there's new information about what once was a mystery disease.People with fibromyalgia have a host of symptoms. Yet it's often misdiagnosed and misunderstood, even by doctors. Now there's a new drug and a new focus for researchers.

Phyliss Talarico lives in agony and has for the past ten years. She has fibromyalgia.

"Today, I feel pain all over. My legs are hurting, my back is -- I couldn't get out of bed this morning," she said.

Fibromyalgia is an often debilitating syndrome that strikes mostly middle aged women, although it can strike anyone at any age. Symptoms include chronic, widespread pain, intense fatigue, sleep or memory problems -- stiffness and migraines. Yet many are often misdiagnosed. Experts say the problem is, not all doctors are familiar with the condition.

"It doesn't have any markers to standard blood tests or x-rays," said Fibromyalgia expert Dr. Patrick Wood. "There's nothing in the blood that says, 'I have fibromyalgia,' there's nothing you're going to see on an x-ray."

Doctors often try ruling out other problems first, the condition can be confirmed using a special exam called the "manual tender points survey."

"The characteristic 18 tender points are palpated with the thumb to determine whether or not they're tender to light touch," said Dr. Wood.

The exact cause isn't known although it often occurs after an acute illness or injury. Some experts believe stress or genetics may play a role. And while it's traditionally considered a muscle and joint condition -- the majority of new research is focusing on the brain.

"Changes in brain chemistry and levels of chemicals such as dopamine or serotonin are believed to be implicated," said Dr. Wood.

There is no known cure the FDA recently approved the first drug to treat fibromyalgia.

"I trust that the FDA will be approving a host of other medications in a time in the near future," said Dr. Wood.

Patients are helping by focusing on nutrition, exercise, yoga and meditation.

"Fibromyalgia is something that you can survive," said Talarico.

Health experts say to relieve fibromyalgia symptoms, avoid high fat foods and eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts instead. Also eliminate caffeine, tobacco and alcohol from your diet.

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Christi Myers is ABC13's Healthcheck reporter


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