If you’ve ever had to rate the amount of pain you’ve felt to a doctor, a simple ‘how much pain do you on a scale of one to ten?’ question probably wouldn’t be too accurate. After all, everyone experiences pain differently and has other pain thresholds, which means this rating is highly subjective and not precise.
However, it looks like the days of rating pain on a scale of one to ten might soon be over.
Doctors have discovered a new breakthrough blood test, which allows them to objectively measure the amount of pain a person has instantaneously. This will be useful for general purposes at the doctor’s office, but this new test will particularly work wonders for people with chronic pain, babies, people who are suffering from dementia and perhaps even animals. With one in five people dealing with chronic pain, this new test could lead to a more effective and faster treatment.
The painHS test reveals that immune cells have a different color depending on the amount of pain the body undergoes.
This breakthrough was discovered by a team of Australian researchers, scientists, and doctors. Knowing that these cells and their biomarkers change in color depending on the amount of pain is experienced, a simple light measurement of the blood suffices to get an accurate value.
“We are literally quantifying the colour of pain,” Professor Hutchinson explained via the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists.
“This gives us a brand new window into patients’ pain because we have created a new tool that not only allows for greater certainty of diagnosis but also can guide better drug treatment options,” he added.
Aside from the amount or severity of pain a person undergoes, the biomarker color test can also determine the pain tolerance and pain sensitivity of a person.
“Biology has natural color or spectral information when [a] different light is shone onto it,” he said to The Mighty. “We are capturing 100s to 1000s of these colors to make up a complex array of colors.”
Because of the simplicity of the test, the professor believes that painHS will be available at every doctor’s office within 18 months. This breakthrough allows for doctors to get a reliable and objective measurement of pain within seconds, which will definitely come in handy for patients with chronic pain.
“Self-reporting (by patients) is still going to be key but what this does is that those forgotten people who are unable to communicate their pain conditions such as babies or people with dementia can now have their condition diagnosed and treated,” Professor Hutchinson said.
Although the test was researched and developed with humans in mind, the painHS can also be used with animals, helping veterinarians determine what kind of medicine to give an injured animal.
“Animals can’t tell us if they’re in pain but here we have a Dr. Doolittle-type test that enables us to ‘talk’ to the animals, so we can find out if they are experiencing pain and then we can help them,” he told.
The painHS test isn’t the first of its kind that can identify pain levels, but it is a major breakthrough nonetheless because of its simplicity and affordability. Other methods, such as the similar painSEQ and painCELL tests, are much more complicated and can take days until the results are available. This new method allows doctors to identify pain in an instant.
“Eventually we hope it can be a finger prick like a blood glucose test, and then the sample would be read by a medical device which can capture all the color information,” Professor Hutchinson told.
This new blood testing method could also lead to better and more refined medication for chronic pain in the future, although further research has to be done on this subject.
“We now know there is a peripheral cell signal so we could start designing new types of drugs for new types of cellular therapies that target the peripheral immune system to tackle central nervous system pain.”
The research team’s findings have already been discussed by three hundred professionals and pain specialists at a medical convention in Sydney, Australia.
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As is the case with almost all medical breakthroughs, painHS will be thoroughly tested before the general public, general practitioners and physicians will be able to use it.
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