At least four million Americans live with the daily pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia, but because traditional lab tests can't identify the condition, diagnosis and treatment can be a difficult road filled with trial and error.
But now researchers have finally developed a laboratory test with the potential to give fibromyalgia patients concrete answers and long-awaited relief.
Barb Hartong, for example, was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia after experiencing unexplained full-body pain.
"It was almost a relief because I finally knew what was wrong with me," she said.
Experts estimate about 75 percent of fibromyalgia cases are undiagnosed, while others live with pain for years, often receiving treatment that's ineffective or even harmful.
"Many of the patients with chronic opiate use turn out to have underlying fibromyalgia. So in fact, if that was recognized then we could realize that we can stem the tide of treating them inappropriately with opiates," said Dr. Kevin Hacksaw.
Now, researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have, for the first time, identified a potential test to diagnose fibromyalgia with just a few drops of blood. Hackshaw led the study in a unique collaboration between rheumatologists and Ohio State's Food Science Laboratory.
Researchers used infrared in many companies to determine protein, fat, moisture, starch levels, fiber in seconds, we're told. Researchers found that this test can analyze levels of chemicals in the blood the same way it analyzes molecules in food.
This fingerprinting technique can distinguish fibromyalgia from other chronic pain conditions with near 100 percent accuracy.
"A test like this provides confirmation and validation of the symptoms they've been suffering for years," Dr. Hacksaw said.
For Barb, it means managing her fibromyalgia with a daily routine that works for her.
"It's not just giving me a pill, it's how do I live? For me, it's exercise," she says.
Researchers are now working to study the blood test in a larger group of patients, in hopes of one day taking it out of the lab and into the exam room, where doctors could diagnose fibromyalgia on the spot.