By: Melissa Erickson
Suffering from fibromyalgia means dealing with pain, sleep disorders, depression and thinking and memory problems.
Equally difficult is the skepticism of friends, family and the medical community who doubt the validity of the disease itself.
Little understood and often misdiagnosed, fibromyalgia affects approximately 2 percent of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That number is challenged by others who say it affects more than 10 million Americans, or about 6 percent of the population, said Dr. Bruce Gillis, founder of Epicgenetics, a biomedical company that developed the FM / blood test. . He says he has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
What it is?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by generalized pain and tenderness of joints and muscles throughout the body or in localized areas, along with other symptoms that include frequent headaches, lack of sleep, restless legs or cramps, numbness or tingling.
Among the sick, it affects about 60 percent of women and 40 percent of men, Gillis said.
For hundreds of years, fibromyalgia has been misunderstood, Gillis said. The victims, mostly women, were labeled as neurotic. A century ago women could be institutionalized. In the 1970s, doctors widely prescribed Valium to treat it, Gillis said.
It was classified as a syndrome or a set of symptoms rather than a disease, said Gillis, who previously was in private practice treating patients with fibromyalgia.
To perform fibromyalgia tests, many patients spent three to five years visiting doctors to perform “discard tests,” Gillis said. For example, they were evaluated and discarded by lupus or erroneously diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
With the assistance of major medical universities, including the University of California at Los Angeles; The FM / a test was developed at the University of Illinois at the Chicago School of Medicine and at the Harvard Medical School. Diagnoses fibromyalgia by identifying the presence of specific abnormalities in white blood cells that have been documented in these patients. The test is compatible with the FDA and was introduced in 2013.
The test requires less than one fluid ounce of blood. It analyzes the movement patterns of chemokines and cytokines in the white blood cells of the immune system, Gillis said.
Patients with fibromyalgia have an irregular pattern with respect to these proteins. Health care providers can request a test, which is covered by Medicare and often by insurance.
“I think we are at the forefront of advancing scientific information about fibromyalgia and answering these critical questions for patients: 1) Do I have fibromyalgia? 2) How and why did I develop fibromyalgia? And 3) Is there a treatment? Direct for fibromyalgia? “Gillis said.
In an effort to investigate not only the cause of fibromyalgia but also the development of effective treatment, Campaign 250 is seeking 250,000 volunteers to take the free FM / a test.
Patients who receive a positive diagnosis can choose to participate in a specific clinical trial for the vaccine against fibromyalgia that will try to alleviate symptoms related to fibromyalgia.
The study will be led by Dr. Denise Faustman, director of Immunobiology Labs at Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard Medical School, who studies common markets and DNA traits in her investigation of an FM vaccine.
“People with fibromyalgia no longer have to listen to others say ‘everything is in your head’ or ‘it looks perfectly fine'”. You can not see the functioning of the immune system, “said Gillis.