Many people who suffer from fibromyalgia also experience skin disorders, including problems that cause skin rashes and skin itching. While the root cause of fibromyalgia and associated skin issues continues to be studied, there is relief for sufferers in the way of home remedies.
Fibromyalgia is best described as chronic widespread pain. It impacts about 10 million Americans. Since there has never been a definitive biological explanation for the condition, only theories, some have suggested it is more of a psychological disability than a physical one.
There is a lot of examination into the mystery behind fibromyalgia. One of the latest discoveries, published in the journal Pain Medicine, concludes that there is a physical link to fibromyalgia, and it’s through the skin.
Researchers at Albany Medical College uncovered “peripheral neurovascular pathology” in the skin of women with fibromyalgia that could explain the deep tissue pain and skin tenderness associated with the condition.
One of the researchers described finding excessive sensory nerve fibers around blood vessel structures in the palms of hands, as opposed to the brain. A few years ago, scientists discovered nervous system function among blood vessels in the skin.
During the Albany Medical College study, the researchers analyzed the skin of a patient who didn’t have the variety of sensory nerve endings in the skin that account for sense of touch, yet he had normal function when it came to day-to-day tasks. As well, the only sensory endings detected in his skin were around the blood vessels.
The experts say this showed them that these nerve endings are not only involved in blood flow, but could also contribute to our sense of touch and pain.
When studying nerve endings, the researchers used a special microscopic technique that allowed them to examine very small biopsies collected from the hands of people with fibromyalgia. They found a huge increase in sensory nerve fibers at certain places within the blood vessels of the skin. These sites are little muscular valves, called arteriol-venule shunts. The researchers say this could explain why people with fibromyalgia often have tender and painful hands. Shunts tend to open under cold conditions, which is interesting to note in light of the fact that people with fibromyalgia complain about increased pain during cold weather periods.
The opening and closing of shunts impacts blood flow to the muscles throughout the body. The researchers were left wondering if mismanaged blood flow could be the reason for muscular pain, fatigue, inflammation, and non-restful sleep in fibromyalgia patients.
Pain experts at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, call the findings “exciting”. They hope it will lead to new treatments for patients who have had little relief to date.
Fibromyalgia and skin disorders
Fibromyalgia is a complicated disorder because it impacts the whole body and hits people in different ways. In some cases, fibromyalgia skin conditions can be overwhelming. Skin rashes and skin itching may be the only problem for some sufferers, while others have multiple fibromyalgia skin disorders at play.
More research is needed to confirm and understand the connection between skin disorders and fibromyalgia, but many doctors do believe the evidence so far shows there is some overlap in these conditions. Researchers in Italy have found that a large percentage of people who suffer from chronic hives also suffer from fibromyalgia. Studies also indicate that people who suffer from lupus and psoriasis are more likely to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia. People who have fibromyalgia tend to have elevated inflammatory markers, compared to those who do not, which could explain skin sensitivity. Lastly, rosacea has been found in many people who have fibromyalgia.
Let’s take a look at the common skin conditions associated with fibromyalgia.
- Dry skin – dry, flaking skin that appears anywhere on the body. Fibromyalgia dry skin can peel and cause pain and discomfort.
- Itchy skin – most common complaint among fibromyalgia patients. Scratching too much can lead to sores and infection.
- Skin discoloration – fibromyalgia skin discoloration can be gradual or sudden. Some people complain about dark spots, especially on the inside of the forearms or thighs.
- Rashes – these look like raised bumps on the skin and feel scaly.
- Psoriasis – fibromyalgia psoriasis is a skin condition that changes the cycle of skin cells. As a result, cells build up on the surface of the skin, forming thick, silvery, or red patches that can be both itchy and painful.
- Rosacea – this happens when little vessels in the skin get swollen. The result is a rosy red glow. Rosacea is most common on the skin of the nose, cheeks, and forehead.
Probably the worst of the fibromyalgia skin disorders is something called tactile allodynia. This disorder makes it very hard for anything or anyone to make contact with the skin. Can you imagine someone gently touching your arm or hand and it causing you terrible pain? Well, that’s tactile allodynia.
When it comes to skin conditions associated with fibromyalgia, anywhere between 50 to 80 percent of people diagnosed with fibromyalgia have experienced them. This includes rashes. The rashes can feel very uncomfortable when sleeping at night and when wearing certain types of clothing. Of course, rashes can also make a person feel self-conscious about their appearance.
While some fibromyalgia rashes cause skin itching, in other cases the rash can be sore, or people can experience a crawling sensation on their skin.
If a rash becomes really irritating to a fibromyalgia sufferer, it is best to see a doctor. In some instances, the rash can be linked to medication the patient is taking. Even if that is not the case, the doctor will be able to recommend creams or ointments that could ease any discomfort.
Many fibromyalgia patients are confused by the skin itching sensation that comes with their condition. While doctors can’t say for certain why some people with the disorder seem to have this issue, they suspect that it could be the brain’s reaction to the pain that’s happening. Sometimes, the skin itching can be minor, but on other times, it can feel like the entire body needs scratching.
Some people who suffer from itching turn to anti-itching creams. Others try putting ice on the spots that are the worse. There are even those who practice brain retraining to prevent themselves from scratching. Brain retraining is a technique that focuses on re-programming the brain not to feel pain and instead zero in on other sensations.
Home remedies for skin care with fibromyalgia
There are multiple home remedies to address skin disorders associated with fibromyalgia. One of the most important things you can do is avoid excessive sun exposure, which has proven to be very painful for fibromyalgia patients. As well, use gentle cleansers – ones that are designed for sensitive skin and don’t contain harsh, abrasive scrubs.
When you are bathing, or even just washing your hands and face, remember to use lukewarm water rather than hot. The use of hot water can be hard on the skin that already tends to be dry. Since soaps can have a drying effect, you should apply a minimal amount of soap and always moisturize after bathing.
Another important tip for women is, go with minimal makeup as it can easily irritate the skin. As for facial creams, it is probably best to seek the advice of a dermatologist.
What works for one person, may not work for another. It might take a lot of trial and error to find out what is best for you, if you are looking for relief from fibromyalgia skin disorders. It is nice to know that there are many options to turn to for some level of comfort. Fibromyalgia is difficult enough to cope with even on its own, when you don’t have skin disorders along with it.
It’s important to keep an open mind when faced with skin problems linked to fibromyalgia. You just might find that a simple home remedy brings you great relief. It is important to remember though, when there is ongoing pain, rash, and irritation, seeing a dermatologist is as important as your visits with the doctor who diagnosed you with fibromyalgia in the first place.