Solving The Joint Pain Puzzle Together

Link found between genetic factors and risk of developing fibromyalgia, according to King's College London.

Fibromyalgia has long puzzled doctors and scientists who have been unable to confirm why it occurs. New research may shed some light on the subject.

A study from King's College London found that certain genetic markers can be linked to chronic widespread joint pain, one of the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia.

“Fibromyalgia is influenced by genetic factors but there are many complicated steps between gene and disease," study author Frances Williams, MD, said in a press release.

"Identifying measurable epigenetic links is a major step forward. In addition, the results will inform future research in fibromyalgia as well as other chronic pain syndromes such as irritable bowel syndrome,” Dr. Williams said.

Dr. Williams is a rheumatologist and professor at King's College London.

Dr. Williams and research colleagues studied twins to help identify whether genes look or function differently in people who have widespread chronic pain, compared to those who don't have pain. The researchers identified three genes that were different in people with chronic pain.

This is still an early stage in the research, but the scientists hope to identify genetic variances early and prevent diseases like fibromyalgia. Previous research indicated heritability as a factor in approximately 50 percent of chronic widespread joint pain.

Fibromyalgia is a bit of a mystery condition--poorly understood and often hard to diagnose. It typically causes fatigue and widespread pain in joints and muscles, and is more likely to affect women than men.

Although it is not a form of arthritis, fibromyalgia is considered a rheumatic condition. It may result in cognitive problems such as "fibro fog” and can also cause neurological symptoms like numbness and tingling, headache and sensitivity to loud noises and bright lights. The diagnosis is usually made through a process of elimination and careful assessment of the patient's symptoms, as no laboratory tests are available.

The study was published in the Nov. issue of PLOS One.

The study was funded by Arthritis Research UK.

Information on conflict of interest was not available.

What about the painless symptoms of fibromyalgia?

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