UAB RESEARCHER HOPING TO SOLVE MYSTERIES OF FIBROMYALGIA HELP PATIENTS BREAK FREE

by Jarred Younger, Ph.D

For 10 years, Gail De Sciose felt that pain controlled her activities, her schedule, her every move. She often found herself sprawled on the floor of her Birmingham home, sharp pains radiating down her neck, back, and hips. It was an abrupt change from the vibrant life she once led in New York City, where she had worked as a sales manager, traveled around the country and volunteered at a local animal shelter.

 

“It felt like a hot poker being dragged across my body,” De Sciose recalls. And the pain was accompanied by debilitating fatigue; De Sciose remembers falling asleep in the middle of conversations. “There were times I just couldn’t function,” she says. “I had to cancel theater tickets, vacations and lunches with friends.”

 

De Sciose is one of five million Americans and more than 200,000 Alabamians with fibromyalgia, a disorder characterized by widespread pain that has lasted at least three months and can’t be attributed to any definitive cause. But a fibromyalgia diagnosis doesn’t lead to a cure. For years after she had a name for her hot poker stabs, De Sciose remained in pain, and that’s not unusual: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights studies showing that fibromyalgia patients rate their quality of life lower than patients with other chronic diseases, and are 3 1/2 times more likely to develop depression than those without the disorder.

 

Those responses could be on the verge of changing, however. At UAB, Jarred Younger, Ph.D., hopes to establish Alabama’s first research and clinical care center specializing in fibromyalgia and related conditions, including chronic fatigue syndrome and Gulf War Illness. Already, research by Younger and his team in UAB’s new Neuroinflammation, Pain and Fatigue Lab has revealed possible underlying causes for the disorders and pointed to treatments that are helping to ease pain and fatigue – without side effects – in patients.

 

Younger’s work “is really cutting-edge; it’s groundbreaking,” says David McLain, M.D., a Birmingham rheumatologist who treats the disease and often collaborates with UAB researchers. “He’s responsible for opening up a whole new avenue of treatments, and it’s fortunate he came to UAB.” Continue…

Jarred Younger’s research is piecing together the mysterious processes behind fibromyalgia and related conditions. (Steve Wood/UAB)

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