A Surprising Link found between Fibromyalgia and Insulin Resistance

Now researchers in their new study have found out that medication which is generally used for treating insulin resistance may also serve for the pain of fibromyalgia. This new link gives an interesting clue about this chronic condition.

Researchers have now figured out how to decrease pain caused because of fibromyalgia by using the same medication which is used for insulin resistance. Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes extreme irregular pain throughout the body. The other symptoms include extreme sensitivity to pain and fatigue.

As per the stats of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 4 million individuals that is 2% of the total population have fibromyalgia in the United States alone. However, the researchers are still unaware of the causes of this severe condition.

Recently, a group of researchers from The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston made interesting research.

In a joint effort with partners from different organizations, the analysts found a link between fibromyalgia and insulin resistance. They were now ready to treat pain due to fibromyalgia by using a medication that specialists normally endorse to enable the body to control blood sugar levels.

“Earlier studies discovered that insulin resistance causes dysfunction within the brain’s small blood vessels. Since this issue is also present in fibromyalgia, we investigated whether insulin resistance is the missing link in this disorder, said first author Dr. Miguel Pappolla.

Dr. Pappolla further explained, “We showed that most — if not all — patients with fibromyalgia can be identified by their A1c levels, which reflects average blood sugar levels over the past 2 to 3 months.”

The A1c test is a type of blood test which helps the doctor to measure the individual’s blood sugar levels by observing the figure of “hemoglobin A1c”. Hemoglobin A1c is a blood cell protein found in the human body which ties itself to the simple sugars like glucose. Doctors usually perform this test to know if a patient is pre-diabetic or having type 2 diabetes.

New findings generally change the way of care

In order to carry out the study, researchers chose 23 individuals who were diagnosed with fibromyalgia and their doctors referred them to an expert center for the treatment of muscular or connective tissue pain. The research paper “Is insulin resistance the cause of fibromyalgia? A preliminary report” was published in the journal PLOS ONE on 6th May 2019.

On comparing the A1c test results of the people diagnosed with fibromyalgia with those of age-controlled group, they found that the people with fibromyalgia had elevated levels of hemoglobin A1c as compared to the other group showing that the former group has insulin resistance.

Dr. Pappolla observed, “[People with prediabetes] with slightly elevated A1c values carry a higher risk of developing central (brain) pain, a hallmark of fibromyalgia and other chronic pain disorders.” According to Dr. Pappolla, the close relationship between insulin resistance and fibromyalgia came into existence a long time back.

The first author says, they are shocked to see that they did not notice the link between these two before; “Considering the extensive research on fibromyalgia, we were puzzled that prior studies had overlooked this simple connection.”

He further said, “The main reason for this oversight is that about half of fibromyalgia patients have A1c values currently considered within the normal range. However, this is the first study to analyze these levels normalized for the person’s age, as optimal A1c levels do vary throughout life.”

He clarifies, “Adjustment for the patients’ age was critical in highlighting the differences between patients and control subjects.”

As a major aspect of the investigation, researchers gave patients having muscular and connective tissue pain due to fibromyalgia metformin. Metformin is a drug which is usually given to treat insulin resistance.

Metformin effectively reduced the pain in patients provoking the researchers to recommend this medication as a feasible and more affordable treatment choice for most of the individuals with this chronic pain condition.

As per the research paper, “In the [U.S.] alone, the healthcare cost is around $100 billion [per] year; comparable to reports in European countries.”

The researchers assert that if other scientists also agree to their point of view and their findings then it “may translate not only into a radical paradigm shift for the management of [fibromyalgia] but may also save billions of dollars to healthcare systems around the world.”

Adeena Tariq

Adeena's professional life has been mostly in hospital management, while studying international business in college. Of course, she now covers topics for us in health.

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