How to know for sure if fibromyalgia is behind your fatigue and pain

Living with an undiagnosed health condition is lonely and painful. You have no one to turn to for guidance and treatment (especially, if your doctor’s already given up after countless tests come back normal). And no words to tell friends and family what you’re going through.

This is how way too many people with fibromyalgia feel. In fact, about 75 percent of people with fibromyalgia haven’t gotten the right diagnosis.

They’re misdiagnosed with arthritis, depression or a host of other things. Or they’re never given any diagnosis. Sometimes, people with other conditions, like multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease, and hypothyroidism, are even misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia.

That’s because fibromyalgia is one of the most difficult conditions to diagnose. Right now, there’s no diagnostic tool that tells you for sure that you have fibromyalgia. Doctors must guess based on your symptoms and by ruling out other possible causes.

But wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a way to curb all this diagnostic confusion, so people could find out quickly what’s making them feel ill? It sure would save everyone a lot of suffering.

Luckily, researchers just uncovered a simple way to diagnose fibromyalgia with more certainty…

The blood test that detects fibromyalgia

Researchers from Ohio State College just figured out how to reliably detect fibromyalgia in blood samples…

Their study included 50 people with fibromyalgia, 29 with rheumatoid arthritis, 19 with osteoarthritis and 23 with lupus. Researchers looked at blood from each person through a method called vibrational spectroscopy. Vibrational spectroscopy gauges the energy level of molecules within the blood.

Through vibrational spectroscopy, researchers noticed patterns in the blood of people with fibromyalgia that weren’t present in the blood of people with other diseases. That means they may have finally found a way to confidently diagnose fibromyalgia through a simple blood test.

“These initial results are remarkable. If we can help speed diagnosis for these patients, their treatment will be better, and they’ll likely have better outlooks. There’s nothing worse than being in a gray area where you don’t know what disease you have,” said study co-author Luis Rodriguez-Saona.

Finding help when you think you have fibromyalgia

So, hope is on the horizon for people with fibromyalgia. Unfortunately, this testing approach needs more research before it’s available at your doctor’s office. Next on the researchers’ agenda is a study with a lot more people to see if the findings hold true for a larger, more diverse group of people.

In the meantime, the key to getting an accurate fibromyalgia diagnosis is finding a compassionate, open-minded and knowledgeable doctor to work with. Any good doctor will want to rule out other causes for your pain before diagnosing you with fibromyalgia, so the diagnostic process will take time.

Related: The 2 best ways to decrease fibromyalgia pain

The formal “rule” for diagnosing fibromyalgia also specifies that you must have nearly continuous pain for at least three months. So, if it’s been less than three months, you’ll have to wait before receiving a diagnosis. Once your doctor has ruled out all other possible causes for your pain and you’ve met the three-month time requirement, your doctor may perform a tender-point exam, where he or she touches 18 points on your body to see if they are tender. If you’re tender in at least 11 of these points, you meet the criteria for fibromyalgia.

More recently, however, doctors have switched from the tender points approach to asking questions about your symptoms. These are the symptoms your doctor will look for to diagnose you with fibromyalgia:

  • Widespread pain for at least three months
  • Symptoms like fatigue, waking up tired and trouble thinking
  • No other underlying condition that might cause these symptoms

Now, there are still doctors who don’t believe fibromyalgia is real. If you’re unlucky enough to find yourself in the office of one of these doctors and they aren’t taking you seriously, find another doctor. There are plenty of doctors who do believe in fibromyalgia and want to help people with the disorder receive an accurate diagnosis and disease relief. So, don’t waste your time trying to convince skeptics. Find someone who will support you through this challenging disease.

Editor’s note: If you suffer from chronic pain and conventional medicine has let you down, or you just want to escape the potential dangers of OTC and prescription drugs even for occasional pain, you must read Conquering the Pain: An Alternative Doctor’s Fresh Look at the Newest and Oldest in Alternative Pain Therapies. Click here to get your copy today!

Sources:

  1. Experimental blood test accurately spots fibromyalgia — MedicalXpress
  2. Fibromyalgia: Understand the diagnosis process — Mayo Clinic
  3. Fibromyalgia — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  4. Diagnosis — National Fibromyalgia Association
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.