People who suffer from fibromyalgia hear constantly that they are just imagining their symptoms. It’s one of the most infuriating parts of getting help for the disease. But is true that fibromyalgia is in your head? Research into the relationship between microglia and fibromyalgia shows it may be literally in your head.
He focused on the immune system of fibromyalgia patients. The first step was to test the patients’ blood for abnormalities. He found that there were a number of markers in their blood that were unusual.
First, the level of leptin was far higher in the blood of fibromyalgia patients. Leptin is a hormone that is released from fat cells. Younger found that not only was the concentration in fibromyalgia patients’ blood higher but that the concentration of leptin could predict how severe their symptoms were from day today.
But leptin is also a hormone that can pass through the barrier into the brain. And that’s where the microglia come in. Younger believes that the presence of higher levels of leptin might be causing microglia to become activated and triggering the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia.
If Younger is correct, it means in a strict sense that fibromyalgia is in your head. The reaction between increased leptin levels and the microglia in your brain could easily be the reason that fibromyalgia causes the symptoms it does.
Microglia defend our brain against everything. When we get the flu, for instance, microglia are activated. These cells make us want to crawl into bed and do nothing – so our body can devote its resources to fighting off the flu.
And that means that by understanding the role that microglia play in fibromyalgia, we could get closer to a cure. But the problem is that there is no good way to measure the way that your brain’s immune cells respond to leptin. And Younger hopes that developing a better way to measure this response can help develop a test for fibromyalgia. And hopefully, that is the first step to a cure.
Younger’s research is a great first step in finally getting to the cause of fibromyalgia. And understanding how fibromyalgia is caused by the brain can make treating it easier.
We are still a long way from getting to the bottom of the disease. But this research into microglia and fibromyalgia is a good start.