Understanding of fibromyalgia — and even its recognition as a legitimate illness — has come a long way in the past few years. But the most important advance is Food and Drug Administration approval of two drugs to modulate the nerve pain or central nervous pain that marks the illness.

That's according to Dr. Lucinda Bateman, a Salt Lake City doctor who was treating the condition long before many of her colleagues had stopped debating whether it's real. She's one of the featured speakers at a half-day education conference Saturday presented by the Organization for Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Education and Research.

The FDA approved Lyrica, an anti-seizure drug, and Cymbalta, an antidepressant, which both modulate the pain associated with fibromyalgia. A "poor, orphan sister disease," chronic fatigue syndrome, has been less lucky, she said, because its research has yielded less information, although high-tech genomic studies are expected to change that.

The two conditions often co-exist.

The film, "Living With Fibromyalgia" has a free screening at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Broadway Theater, 111 E. 300 South, in conjunction with the conference, which will be held at the Radisson Hotel, 215 W. South Temple, beginning at 12:30 p.m. Cost is $15.

You can register online at offerutah.org or call 801-328-8080. Later, Daneen Akers, who wrote, directed and produced the film with Stephen Eyre, will discuss it during the conference.

Bateman said Kathleen Light, a researcher at the University of Utah, will talk about her team's research, which has found what may be novel markers for pain and fatigue. It is possible to document the increase in those blood markers when patients with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome exercise.

"It's a wonderful demonstration of how patients with these illnesses have to limit their activity or get sick," she said.

Dr. N. Lee Smith of Lifetree Pain Clinic will update diagnosis and treatment information and Bateman will do the same for chronic fatigue syndrome.

As many as 8 percent of people may have fibromyalgia nationally, the number being highest among middle-aged women. Bateman said at least 10 percent in that category of middle-aged women are believed to suffer fibromyalgia, which varies greatly in severity from one case to another. Estimates are less sure for chronic fatigue syndrome, and sometimes when people meet the criteria, a different explainable or reversible problem is found. Bateman points out that the American health system struggles with complex disorders.

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