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Eur J Pain. 1999 Mar;3(1):19-30.

Elevated plasma levels of neuropeptide Y in female fibromyalgia patients.

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Department of Neuroscience and Psychiatry, Uppsala University, SE-751 85, Uppsala, Sweden


Neuropeptide Y(NPY) co-exists with norepinephrine in the sympathetic nervous system, and NPY may represent the sympathetic-neuronal output. Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) patients have perturbations in the hypothalmic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and in the sympathetic stress axis as well. As opioid peptides, monoamines and sex steroids are integrated in the regulation of stress, it is interesting to further explore the role of NPY in FMS patients, as they show many symptoms that are related to perturbations of those systems.In this study, plasma NPY levels were assessed in subgroups of FMS patients: cyclic (regular menstrual cycles), non-cyclic (post-menopausal), depressed and non-depressed patients. In order to examine whether pain and other symptoms seen in FMS patients are correlated to the NPY levels, the patients were also registering 15 different symptoms daily during 28 days. Sex and age-matched healthy controls were recruited for comparisons. Non-parametric tests were used for the statistical analyses.The results showed that the NPY levels were significantly elevated in the patients compared to the controls. In the luteal phase of the cyclic patients, the levels of the peptide were higher than in the corresponding controls. For the non-cyclic patients, there was a positive correlation between physical symptoms and NPY levels, however, pain per se did not reach the significant level of correlation. The non-depressed patients had the same levels of NPY as the depressed FMS patients, who also had a positive correlation between anxiety and NPY levels.These results suggest that FMS patients have an altered activity in the NPY system, most likely due to prolonged and/or repeated stress, and that the hormonal state and time of the menstrual cycle also may be of importance in the complex pathophysiologic mechanism behind the development of FMS.


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