FIBROMYALGIA and other forms of chronic pain may be caused by insulin resistance, groundbreaking new research suggests.
And, scientists say, the agonising condition could be treated using a common diabetes drug.
A team of scientists from the University of Texas hope the discovery could lead to a revolutionary shift in how chronic pain is treated – potentially saving billions in painkillers.
They were able to identify people with fibromyalgia using a common blood test (called A1c) for insulin resistance – or pre-diabetes.
Metformin ‘dramatically reduced pain’
They then treated the fibromyalgia patients with metformin – a drug developed to combat insulin resistance in diabetics.
They found that all the patients experienced a reduction in their pain.
The fibromyalgia patients involved in the study were divided into age groups.
Researchers found that the blood glucose levels of all the fibromyalgia patients were significantly higher than in normal people.
Neurology professor Dr Miguel Pappolla said that his group was puzzled as to why previous studies had overlooked that connection.
“The main reason for this oversight is that about half of fibromyalgia patients have A1c (blood glucose) values currently considered within the normal range,” he explained.
“However, this is the first study to analyse these levels normalised for the person’s age, as optimal A1c levels do vary throughout life.
“Adjustment for the patients’ age was critical in highlighting the differences between patients and control subjects.”
Earlier studies have found a connection between insulin resistance and dysfunction within the brain’s small blood vessels, but up until now, no one has bothered to investigate whether that’s linked to fibromyalgia.
Insulin resistance is ‘the missing link’
“Since this issue is also present in fibromyalgia, we investigated whether insulin resistance is the missing link in this disorder,” Dr Pappolla added.
“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 two to three months.”
He said people with pre-diabetes who had slightly higher A1c values had a higher risk of developing brain pain – a hallmark of fibromyalgia and other chronic pain disorders.
Fibromyalgia is one of the most common chronic pain conditions.
Lady Gaga, Morgan Freeman, Sinead O’Connor all suffer from the debilitating condition which up until now has had no cure.