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Research Center Seeks Cure for Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia

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www.ProHealth.com • October 8, 2004


By Kelly McDermott, For the Michigan Daily

Twenty percent of Americans suffer from chronic pain or fatigue but are never diagnosed, according to a University research center. Since little information is known about these chronic multi-symptom illnesses, diagnosis and treatment is typically complicated. However, the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, a part of the University of Michigan’s Health System, hopes to find volunteers to help further their research. Some illnesses that fall into this category include irritable bowel syndrome and migraines.

Since the center opened a registry last year, 91 people have joined as subjects for their project. “Opening a registry is a means for us to generate a pool of subjects for research studies related to chronic multi-symptom illnesses,” said Kimberly Groner, a health science researcher. Although many have joined the registry so far, Virginia Leone, one of the programs’ research recruiters, said they need more volunteers. The research project consists of several individual studies focusing on effects of stress on memory and concentration and also the effects of sleep and exercise on symptoms of the illness.

The most common chronic multi-symptom illnesses among college students are chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, said Groner. Fibromyalgia is associated with full-body muscular pain and fatigue. Although Groner does not know specific numbers on how many students have an illness on campus, she believes the percentage mirrors that of the national population. “Two to 4 percent have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia or another related illness, and nearly 80 percent of people diagnosed are women.” There is no cure or official treatment yet for either illness, but Groner recommends one thing to all her patients — exercise.

When exercise doesn’t help, other treatments include psychological therapy and use of anti-depressants. Fibromyalgia often overlaps with other illnesses, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, Groner added. Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome include muscle pain, joint pain, headache, sore throat, unrefreshing sleep and difficulty with concentration. Chronic fatigue patients show more than four of these symptoms, and, according to Groner, are severe enough to limit daily activity on a regular basis. Groner believes people develop chronic multi-symptom illnesses after some type of physical or emotional trauma. Examples include a death of a loved one or a car accident. She even attributed the illness to viral infections such as chicken pox and mononucleosis.

Ruth Freedman, a volunteer in the study, has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. “Before I was diagnosed, I didn’t know too much about the illness,” said Freedman. “I joined the registry because I believe in research and hope the center will learn more about the illness and different treatments.” Freedman was diagnosed with fibromyalgia two years ago, and since then, she said her symptoms have improved. “I don’t have pain everyday, I have some good days and some bad days,” Freedman said. “Walking helps, and I also take a deep water therapeutic exercise class.” Freedman also attends massage therapy. Not all treatments help everyone, but Groner wants to remind people with these illnesses that “there is always hope.”

The center is hoping 300 people will join the registry each year, Leone said. It would like to gain 750 participants between the ages of 18 to 60 in the next three years. The registry welcomes both male and female volunteers who have been diagnosed with one of the illnesses, or who think they may have symptoms. The registry also needs healthy individuals to serve as control subjects for the studies. For more information about chronic multi-symptom illnesses or the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Registry, call (866) 288-0046 or visit www.med.umich.edu/painresearch. Source: The Michigan Daily



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