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Adrienne Dellwo

Evidence of Immune Problem & Possible Diagnostic Test for Fibromyalgia

By January 21, 2013

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Research Brief

New research adds evidence to the theory that fibromyalgia involves significant immune-system dysfunction. The testing methods used in the study may also have value as a diagnostic tool.

Immune Dysfunction

Researchers used multiple methods to examine the cytokine levels of people with fibromyalgia compared to healthy subjects. Cytokines are proteins that regulate your immune response.

They found that the fibromyalgia group had significantly lower cytokine concentrations than the control group. Researchers say this implies that cell-mediated immunity is impaired in fibromyalgia.

What Does It Mean?

If these results are validated by further studies, it could mean quite a bit. Opinion all ready has shifted away from this being a rheumatological illness and toward it being neurological or neuro-immune. This definitely sways things toward the neuro-immune.

While we've long known the immune system was somehow involved in fibromyalgia, this aspect of the condition has taken a back seat to pain and neurological dysfunction. Evidence of specific immune problems could lead to new avenues for treatment, a better understanding of the condition, and, as these researchers say, a long-awaited diagnostic test.

Diagnostic Test?

The specific tests used in this study revealed unique immune-system traits that researchers believe could be used to help diagnose fibromyalgia. They say tests results successfully distinguished between those with fibromyalgia and those without it.

Before a diagnostic test becomes common practice, it has to be proven effective in repeated tests. If this test holds up to scientific scrutiny, it would make a huge difference in how fibromyalgia is not only diagnosed, but viewed by the medical community. However, keep in mind that many other studies have made similar claims about a diagnostic tool, and so far not one has been widely adopted. Even in the best-case scenario, it would take years for it to be adopted.

Regardless, this could be an important study that opens up a new direction for researchers and new findings that could help us all.


January 21, 2013 at 8:03 am
(1) dfwmom says:

This is interesting research. Thank you for sharing it. Soime people report that they have had success with using low dose naltrexone therapy to modulate the immune response.

January 21, 2013 at 9:21 am
(2) Jenn says:

Interesting but they found fibromyalgia is directly related to the central nervous system. That is a problem within the brain and spinal cord. That is very different from it being an immune disorder. Do you have a link to this research? What was the criteria for the control group? Who created this study? Who was it funded by? Was it able to be recreated by other researchers with the same results?

If this research was successful how long will it be before doctors are taught to use this to diagnose?

January 21, 2013 at 10:24 pm
(3) Sarah says:

The link to the research is in the article. Click on “New Research.”

January 22, 2013 at 1:27 am
(4) sandy says:

We fibro folks don’t sleep well thus lowering our immune system. The study only proves that fibromytes have low immune systems, not that low immunity causes fibro.

January 22, 2013 at 9:21 am
(5) Jacque says:

I believe that people with Fibromyalgia have a compromised immune system, and it’s important to step up wellness care so you don’t get down too far.

January 22, 2013 at 3:08 pm
(6) Jenn says:

Thanks Sarah. The link was not up in the AM. However, it still does not answer all my questions. I agree with Sandy about Fibro lowering your immunity but it is not a direct cause of Fibro. It is another symptom. Masking symptoms is great but does not actually attack the real cause. I was apart of a study with Dr Clauw at the University of Michigan. This study is still on going. What they found so far is that it is a central nervous system problem that stems in the brain and spinal cord. There are so many symptoms that get confused with the cause. The best study would be to study an individuals levels before ever coming down with Fibro. However that would be a long and costly study. Who’s to say that what subject will get Fibro and who won’t. I think so many get misdiagnosed with Fibro because doctors still feel its a condition they can dump a patient with any pain into. Fibro is such a complex problem. I really feel there is several types of Fibro.

January 23, 2013 at 1:35 am
(7) Chris says:

I believe the research is saying FM is both CNS and immune related, as in the quote below.

The etiology of FM is not completely understood but the current hypothesis is that FM arises from interactions between the autonomic central nervous system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the immune system

I don’t think there will ever be a one size fits all solution to what causes FM but at least they are getting closer, and if a diagnostic test comes out of the research that will be great. :-)

January 25, 2013 at 12:51 am
(8) Linda says:

This study at first offered some hope but it sounds like research is rather slow, and I have to wonder how much funding goes into trying to find the cause and cure for FM and diagnostic test. I have only found perhaps 3 or 4 hopeful articles as far as that goes over the past 4 years of researching on the internet.. I am grateful for any and all research being done.

January 25, 2013 at 5:43 pm
(9) Tammie Page says:

It’s interesting, but I don’t think that it could ever be used to create a single diagnostic test, because there are too many co-morbid illnesses that can also affect cytokines that would potentially skew the results. For instance, they’ve shown altered cytokine levels in ME/CFS and in Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, and many people have one or both of these along with Fibro.

There are also probably other chronic illnesses that alter cytokine levels, given that cytokines are a pretty basic part of our immune systems, and there are many other immune related illnesses. And other short term illnesses can also affect levels of cytokines in the body.

So, if someone has another illness that also decreases cytokine levels, they could potentially be misdiagnosed, and if they have another illness that increases cytokine levels, it could obscure the fibro related decrease, thus giving a false negative for Fibro.

January 25, 2013 at 5:55 pm
(10) Abot Bensussen says:

It’s only good to have more research. We certainly need and deserve it. Does this mean that we get sick more often and harder than other people? Seems that way in my family. Starting my second week os the five pack anti-biotics that didn’t cure me the first week.

Sick in bed for most of my childhood, too. Here’s hoping we’ll find out what it is and how we got it, and how to cure it, while I’m still alive.

Thanks for the optimistic article, Abby

January 26, 2013 at 11:14 pm
(11) Cole says:

I also confirm that I know someone having positive response to low dose naltrexone therapy.

Dr. Oz had a guest gastroenterologist segment addressing the majority of our immune system, 70%, present in the gut. Describes how poor diet and age lead to specific low enzyme levels and thus patient suffers symptoms of chronic inflammation from poor nutrient absorption. The guest Dr. provided a self test of symptoms of concern and how to resolve issues with raw diet ect.. It was an excellent segment I think it is worth a FSM/CFS sufferer to view. Episode “What’s your sit sense trying to tell you?”.

I currently use Curamin, Stop Pain Now ex strength by Terry Naturally for fibo pain.

Good luck all!

This all has come ful lcirclehighly recommend th

January 27, 2013 at 9:49 am
(12) Cathy Barzo says:

I’m glad to see that things are progressing in the understanding of FM or CFS, especially among family doctors and specialists. A diagnostic test will certainly be a great success. I’m glad that the research is showing commonalities / markers that help in determining the illness.

January 29, 2013 at 5:35 am
(13) Debra An says:

I have noticed a link between rapidly aging when I got Fibromyalgia and CFS. I could actually watch myself get older daily in the mirror. When I looked up and researched aging I found this link. The underlying cause Inflammation and to combat it anti inflammatory foods and herbs. I went from looking 18 when I was 30 to looking my age, which now I am in my 40′s. I have found other things that work to keep wrinkles at a minim! Christy Brinkly came out with a wonderful anti aging line that works, I saw result in just 30 day and my partner noticed and brought it to my attention how great it is that it works so quickly! It is on the web if anyone is interested! Oh another thing I want to share. The painful points on my body a doctor I saw noticed they do not bother me as much as other women and he was very surprised! I explained to him I have my partner rub the heck out of them until they do not hurt. the more often you do it the less it hurts! Even though it hurt, I endure the pain because I know if I do it will not bother me as much and over time the spots are desensitized! So they do not hurt as much as they did when I first got these illnesses! You can do it yourself, but I prefer him doing it so I make sure he gets the job done fast! Also massages help too with almond oil to help soften your skin and also to keep it from being dry. I was using dermatologist strongest moisture re-placer they had, which was messy and greasy. now I use almond oil in the shower after my body wash. i put it in my had apply it to my body let it set in while I wash my hair then rinse the excess away! Oh, you can add scents to the almond oil(perfume)!You can find it at your health food store!

January 29, 2013 at 10:05 am
(14) Shar says:

I recently discovered the book , ” Lose The Wheat, Lose The Belly Fat”‘ book by Dr. William Davis. I was astonished at the garbage that is being tauted as ‘healthy whole grains’ in this country – wheat that has been genetically altered in labs and never tested on humans. The side effects talked about in his book are incredible and shocking. It scared me into eliminating wheat/gluten and I have had much improvement in my muscle pain/spasms/pain. I’ve had Fibro & ANSD for decades and lived on meds just to function. I’m finally seeing some relief. GIVE IT A READ – it could answer the question of why millions of people are suffering from Fibro & other undiagnosable ailments – is it because we’ve all been ingesting the same ‘junk’ for years? Just a thought!

January 29, 2013 at 3:24 pm
(15) Denys Silver says:

The Fibroduck Foundation has been set up specifically to raise money for research into Fibromyalgia. You can read about their first study at: http://www.fibroduckfoundation.com/research.html and the wider website gives details on how to get involved. They are a registered charity.

February 25, 2013 at 10:25 am
(16) Perseus says:

I think these findings do not dismiss other ideas about the involvement of the nervous system in FM. I say ideas because there has yet to be any conclusive evidence that FM is a problem WITHIN the CNS, just that it is involved. Why specifically the nervous is “sensitized” has not been established. It is not sufficient to merely state it it is – a mechanism is required to maintain central sensitization.

There is extensive communication between the nervous system and the immune system and cytokines do modulate CNS function. This research contributes to ideas about the involvement of the nervous system; it does not claim it to be invalid or replace it but further explains the potential interactions.

March 7, 2013 at 9:52 pm
(17) lucy says:

I wouldn’t get too excited. Please read the following:

“In the BMC Pathology paper they `declared that they have no competing interests.’ Either they forget to tell the reviewers they were about to market the ‘test’ or they concealed it. There was a lot of money involved for the company and Dr. Gillis, and it is almost certain that the reviewers would have taken note of this fact. If the authors just ‘forgot’ and asserted no conflict, they still had a lot of time to correct the error and to tell the journal.”

And also see the news report: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/02/26/questions-arise-over-new-diagnostic-test-for-fibromyalgia/

March 19, 2013 at 10:29 am
(18) Georgia says:

I think there should be a way of compiling the most common symptoms among fibromyalgia suffers, that this could be used as a diagnostic tool in addition to the latest. I read over and over again of people suffering the same physical and emotional impairments as I experience. I don’t believe this to be a coinsidence!

May 29, 2013 at 11:23 pm
(19) JulesNo says:

Abot, I was sick very often as a child, too. Constantly had pneumonia, strep throat and bronchitis. Had chronic fatigue in my late teens and my 20′s but was never diagnosed with anything, mainly because I did not have the energy to get to a doctor or anyone to take me. Been wondering if any of these things are related. Recently I was tested for something (can’t remember the name) that said I had high inflammation levels. I don’t know what it is, but I know it’s not “in my head.” For Once I hit 30 I did great for decades, but now I’m really bad. It took me two years to get diagnosed with fibro and hypothyroidism, all the while I got progressively worse. This time last year I was so bad off I couldn’t think, sleep, move, function. Took me about 6 months of the right medication to even come out of it and start functioning again. I thought I was going to make it, but they recently changed the manufacturer for the hydrocodone I receive and it doesn’t work as well, now having problems getting my prescription increased. No one would want to be like this. All I can think is two years ago I seemed to be fine, and now I feel like a 90 year old woman. I take gabapentin, too, which helps with the stiffness but not the pain and I can only take one a day as I start to feel hopeless if I take more. My doctor asked me how that could be: I don’t know, I just do…and I start crying. I would love to be able to sleep again, jump up out of bed each day without a second thought and be medication free, but so far I can’t. It’s so hard, bra’s and sweaters hurt like crazy, I have no one to support me so I have to work, but if I can’t get the medication I need on a regular basis I don’t know what I’m going to do. So afraid of being in constant pain again, and of running out of medicine and taking months to recover.

May 29, 2013 at 11:24 pm
(20) Jules says:

cont’d from previous post
What do you do when some doctors say it’s all in your head, while other doctors believe that you actually have something and tell you you’ll always have it, but don’t want to give you all the medicine you need? I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t have anyone who can support me if I had to be sick everyday, I have to be able to function and work because I have to be able to support myself. This is the worst disease. I don’t know what to do. I can’t live with the pain everyday or not having the ability to work (or even move or sleep). What can we do? How did you all get help?

July 16, 2013 at 1:05 am
(21) perpetual pain says:

not really sure why i’m writing this as if some obscured vail will suddenly
be lifted and a great discovery will come of it. I pour over information online looking for new scientific revelations in the way of fibromyalgia or autoimmune dissorders. I think back to the history of illness throughout my life starting at age twelve when I went swimming in a creek and ended up sick for a whole summer with a miriad of ear infections, tonsilitis and bronchitis that inhibited my breathing so bad that I could not go out and ride a bike or walk through a store without sitting down. After that I would get bronchitis on a yearly basis like clockwork spring and fall. I began to get migraines but never associated them as such until they started taking over my life in college and then there was the spell of kidney, bladder UTI and yeast infections that would go on and on…I tried for more than several years to have my first son but after I got pregnant I was healthy as a horse the whole time…after my third child i had a great deal of problems and about the time I hit fourty it seems my body really fell apart. Muscle spasms, fasciculations, pain all over. I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, degenerative osteoauthritis,carpal tunne, low vitamin d, low thyroid, high blood pressure, IBS, reflux, constant neck pain triggers weekly migraines…..anyway I just wish someone could figure this stinking thing out before there’s nothing left of me. No one who has not experienced it could possibly understand how frustrating it could be….I was an athlete when I was young and now I feel robbed….not that I usually sit around and cry in my milk….after all what good would it do . I’m sure they are trying to figure this thing out but it seems like a stab in the dark ….i just want to know why….what caused it…if i knew that I could feel I don’t know vindicated.

October 7, 2013 at 12:43 pm
(22) Karen says:

To perpetual pain. I also noticed that I felt fibro free when I was pregnant. I would tell Doctors this and they had no answer. Finally a Natural Pathic Dr. told me about a link between Progesterone and fibro pain. It is very important to have your Estogen and Progesterone levels checked. I did not have enough Progesterone. With bio identical Progesterone I was able to reduce pain levels and energy levels drastically. I found this by accident when I went on the HCG diet. Cut out gluten, and sugar, and started eating organic foods. My Dr. told me that the HCG boosted my Progesterone and caused the drastic change for the better. I also know for a fact that we have parasites in our body. This is where the digestive tract comes in. Probably why you got sick after swimming in the creek when you were 12. There is a product called SCAM, that is excellent for cleansing the body internally. It is anti fungal, anti yeast, anti bacterial, anti microbial. You can find it online. I have had Fibro for more than 10 years and was so bad about 4 years ago that I could not get out of bed. These things that I have mentioned have worked for me. I am super sensitive to chemicals also and have switched to chemical free shampoo, soaps, laundry and cleaning supplies. I hope this is of help to all that read it. Thank you

October 13, 2013 at 4:17 pm
(23) Melissa says:

This would be awesome. Thank you for sharing what you found out,

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