New research may help fibromyalgia sufferers

Monday, February 18th 2008, 6:22 pm
By: News 9

By Kirsten McIntyre, NEWS 9

It's estimated as many as 10 million Americans suffer from Fibromyalgia. Despite a number of symptoms, experts say it's often misdiagnosed and misunderstood. Now, new research is providing hope.

Phyllis Talarico has lived in agony the past 10 years. "I'll get pain that is excruciating," she said. Some days are better than others, but it's almost always there.

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

Phyllis has fibromyalgia. It's 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.

Lynne Matallana, of the National Fibromyalgia Association, said it took more than 37 doctors before she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. "I started to think maybe there wasn't anything wrong with me," she said.

Many doctors are unfamiliar with the condition and test results typically are normal, experts say.

"We don't really know why some person has it, some person doesn't," said Dr. Mary Ann Bauman, NEWS 9 medical expert. "We knot it can be connected with other tissue diseases like lupus or arthritis, but you can have fibromyalgia without having any of those."

Treating the condition isn't easy, Bauman said.

"It is a frustrating syndrome for the patient and the doctor because we can't really say, 'Take this and you'll get better,''' Bauman said.

While doctors often try ruling out other problems first,  the condition can be confirmed using a special exam called the manual tenderpoints survey.

The exact cause isn't known, allthough 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.

The FDA recently approved the first drug to treat fibromyalgia and research is ongoing in Oklahoma City.