Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), musculoskeletal pain, pelvic pain and dry eye disease have all shown a common genetic link in a new study carried out at the Kings College London.
In an investigation of more than 8,000 sets of twins, researchers found that the ailments were common in identical pairs with matching DNA.
While environmental factors can contribute, genetics are thought to account for as much as two-thirds of someone’s chances of developing the diseases.
Chronic pain refers to painful ailments that persist for several months. It is a common problem, but can have many different causes. This makes it difficult to diagnose and treat.
Although medical conditions are linked to chronic pain, problems with the nervous system – in which pain signals are sent to the brain despite there being no obvious tissue damage – is considered a primary cause.
Experts however have suspected that some people may have a genetic predisposition to chronic pain, especially as many sufferers share similar symptoms and often have more than one of the different types of chronic pain.
The new research from Kings College London is a pioneering study highlighting a genetic link, and it is thought the findings will pave the way for improved management of chronic pain diseases.
Lead investigator Dr Frances Williams said:
“This study is one of the first to examine the role of genetic and environmental factors in explaining the links between different chronic pain syndromes.”
“The findings have clearly suggested that chronic pain may be heritable within families.”
Researchers have stressed however that further research will be needed to pinpoint exactly what genes are responsible for the development of chronic pain diseases. This is hoped to lead to therapies which will greatly change the lives of those suffering from chronic pain ailments.