Altered Brain Connections Cause Pain, Inflammation in Patients with Fibromyalgia and RA, Study Shows

Altered Brain Connections Cause Pain, Inflammation in Patients with Fibromyalgia and RA, Study Shows
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who also have fibromyalgia (FM) have altered functional connections in the brain that promote inflammation and pain, a new study shows. The study's findings also suggest that symptoms of comorbid fibromyalgia and RA could respond to anti-inflammatory treatment. The study, “Inflammation is associated with pro-nociceptive brain connections in rheumatoid arthritis patients with concomitant fibromyalgia,” was published in Arthritis and Rheumatology. Some patients with rheumatoid arthritis report widespread hyperalgesia (enhanced pain response), fatigue, and cognitive difficulties, which is remarkably similar to what patients with fibromyalgia experience. In fact, the prevalence of FM in RA patients ranges between 12–48% compared to 2–8% in the general population. In the context of RA, researchers have long hypothesized that inflammatory nociceptive processes (which lead to inflammatory pain) change the central nervous system (CNS) by increasing signaling through pathways that promote pain (pronociceptive CNS pathways), driving the development of FM. In support of this hypothesis, researchers have found evidence that functional brain connections are substantially altered in RA patients with high levels of inflammation. Hence, researchers wanted to learn more about the impact of inflammation on pathways related to pain in patients with RA and FM. Researchers said this study was designed “…to identify patterns of brain connectivity in RA that promote core symptoms of FM in response to inflammation.” Twenty-seven RA patients with FM and 27 without FM
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