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Scientists are looking for ways to finally take a real measure of pain

WASHINGTON (AP) – Is the pain offensive or burning? On a scale of 1 to 10, is it a 6…

WASHINGTON (AP) – Is the pain offensive or burning? On a scale of 1 to 10, is it a 6 or a 8?

Over and over again, 17-year-old Sarah Taylor fought to get doctors to understand her sometimes debilitating levels of pain, first from childhood arthritis damage and then from fibromyalgia.

“It’s really hard when people can’t see how much pain you are in because they have to take your word on it and sometimes they don’t really believe in you,” she said. 19659002] Now scientists peek into Sarah’s eyes to track how her students react when she is hurting and when she’s not – part of an attempt to develop the first objective way of measuring pain.

“If we can’t measure pain, we can’t fix it,” says dr. Julia Finkel, a pediatrician at the Children‘s National Medical Center in Washington, invented the experimental eye tracking device.

At each doctor’s visit, you get your temperature, heart rate and blood pressure measured. But there is no stethoscope for pain. Patients need to convey how bad it is by using 1

0-point scale or emoji style charts that show faces turning from smiles to frowns.

It is problematic for many reasons. Doctors and nurses must guess the infant’s pain by crying and pits. The ache that a person counts a 7 may be a 4 to someone who is more used to severe pain or genetic tolerance. Patient-to-patient variability makes it difficult to test if potential new analgesics really work.

Nor does self-classification determine what kind of pain someone has – a cause of test and error treatment. Are Opioids Necessary? Or is the pain, like Sarah, better suited to nerve medication?

“It is very frustrating to be in pain and you have to wait six weeks, two months, to see if the drug is working,” said Sarah, using a combination of drugs, acupuncture and a lot of exercise to counter her pain. .

The National Institutes of Health is pushing for the development of what its director, Dr. Francis Collins, has called a “pain-o-meter”. Because of the opioid crisis, the goal is not only to indicate how much pain someone has in. It is also to determine what type it is and which drug is most effective.

“We don’t create a lie detector for pain,” stressed David Thomas of NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, which oversees the research. “We don’t want to lose the patient’s voice.”

NIH-funded researchers have begun studying brain scanning, pupil responses and other possible markers of pain throughout the country, so that they can finally see the “ouchen” so that they can better treat it. It is early-stage research, and it is not clear how soon any of the trials could weaken.

“There won’t be a single signature of pain,” Thomas predicted. “My vision is that one day we will draw these different measurements together for something of a fingerprint of pain.”

NIH estimates 25 million people in the United States experience daily pain. Most days, Sarah Taylor is one of them. Now she lives in Potomac, Maryland, she was a small child in her native Australia when the swollen, aching joints of juvenile arthritis appeared. She has had migraine and spinal cord inflammation. Since two years ago, the bodily pain of fibromyalgia struck out; an inflation last winter housed her for two weeks.

A later morning, Sarah climbed on an acupuncture table at the Children’s National, rated today’s pain a non-bad 3 and opened her eyes wide for the experimental pain test.

“There will be a flashlight for 10 seconds. All you have to do is try not to flash,” researcher Kevin Jackson told Sarah as he put up the student’s tracking device mounted on a smartphone.

The eyes offer a window to the pain centers in the brain, says Finkel, who leads pain research at the Children’s Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation.

How? Some pain-relieving nerves transmit “ouch” signals to the brain along pathways that also alter the muscles of the students because they respond to different stimuli. Finkel’s unit traces pupillary reactions to light or to non-painful stimulation of certain nerve fibers, which aim to link different patterns to different intensities and types of pain.

Think of the sciatica and the chick pain of sciatica: “Everyone knows someone who has started on oxycodone for their sciatic nerve pain. And they will tell them they feel it – it hurts anyway – and they just don’t care,

What happens? An opioid like oxycodone gives some relief by hiding the perception of pain but not the transfer – while another type of drug can block the pain by targeting the nerve neuron fiber, she said.

Some drugs May also be detected by other changes in a dormant pupil she said, last month, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it would help AlgometRx, a biotechnology firm Finkel based, rapid development of the device as a fast drug screen. Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital that MRI scans revealed patterns of inflammation of the brain that identified either fibromyalgia or chronic rheumatoid arthritis

Other researchers have found changes in brain activity – where different areas “light up” on scans – which signal some types of pain. Others use electrodes in the scalp to measure brain wave pain.

Ultimately, NIH wants to reveal biological markers explaining why some recover from acute pain while others develop difficult to treat chronic pain.

Your brain changes with pain, “Thomas explained.” A zero to 10 scale or a happy face scale does not take anywhere near pain experience. “


The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Scientific Education AP is solely responsible for all content.

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