According to a study from the Universitat Politècnica de València (Spain), patients with fibromyalgia have changes in cerebral blood flow. The research using transcranial Doppler (TCD), presented in the journal PLoS ONE, revealed changes in blood flow parameters in fibromyalgia patients that could help explain the painful and emotional symptoms associated with the disease.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease characterized by diffuse musculoskeletal pain in multiple locations and hypersensitivity to normally painless stimuli. Several areas of the brain are activated in response to these painful stimuli. Other associated symptoms include sleep disturbances, fatigue, stiffness, mood disturbances, headaches, paresthesias, … The prevalence of the disease is estimated at 2 to 6%. This common pathology is now considered multimodal and systemic, affecting both the central nervous system and small nerve fibers. Although its symptoms are multiple, fibromyalgia is primarily characterized by this chronic pain and a higher, painful response to pressure on hypersensitive sites. Fibromyalgia usually manifests as neuropathies that lead to a variety of painful effects that vary from patient to patient, depending on the nerves affected.
The researchers used a transcranial Doppler technique, a non-invasive ultrasound diagnostic method that analyzes changes in blood flow in the brain by measuring the speed of blood flow in the major blood vessels of the brain. 15 women with fibromyalgia and 15 healthy women underwent this brain test during a five-minute rest period with their eyes closed to determine if fibromyalgia was related to changes in the brain, including cerebral blood flow. The researchers analyzed the flow in the anterior and middle cerebral arteries of both cerebral hemispheres. This examination showed that fibromyalgia participants have:
- Significantly higher rates of depression and anxiety than healthy controls.
- Significantly higher pain intensity.
- Greater complexity of cerebrovascular flow (CBFV signals).
These CBFV abnormalities were found to be significantly associated with clinical scores of pain and emotional distress.
Negative emotional factors and activation of pain-related brain regions: results consistent with previous studies showing a relationship between negative emotional factors and activation of pain-related brain regions. The data confirm that the complexity and characteristics of cerebrovascular blood flow are related to some disease symptoms, including levels of depression, anxiety, and pain. While these results from a small sample have not yet been confirmed by larger studies, they suggest that treating cerebrovascular abnormalities may help alleviate some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia.