People with fibromyalgia syndrome are more likely to have sensitive skin than the rest of the population, and between 50%-80% of people with fibromyalgia syndrome will develop skin rashes or other skin.
Pretty much all of us have suffered from some type of skin complaint at some point in our lives. Many of us were acne sufferers as teenagers and everyone suffers from dry or itchy skin at one time or another.
Though skin problems can be difficult to treat and be very frustrating, most of the time we can deal with them.
However, fibromyalgia sufferers seem to battle an unfair share of skin problems. On top of these skin problems, these complaints often make fibromyalgia symptoms even worse.
Dry itchy skin can make sleeping difficult, and increase pain and fatigue. Skin problems can also make it hard to choose clothes to wear, to eat certain foods, and just carry on with daily life.
The exact cause of fibromyalgia rash is unknown, but scientists suggest fibromyalgia causes an immune reaction that makes the skin more sensitive.
The reaction releases histamine (a chemical involved in itchiness and skin sensitivity) and heparin (a substance that has blood thinning qualities and therefore promotes bruising).
Fibromyalgia Skin Symptoms
Studies have indicated 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.
Common skin conditions associated with fibromyalgia are:
- 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.
Can We Find the Causes of Skin Rashes?
Diagnosing skin rashes associated with fibromyalgia can be tricky. The causes of skin problems in fibromyalgia are still a mystery, for the most part, to doctors and scientists.
You will, however, hear the term “allodynia” associated with skin rashes in fibromyalgia. Tender skin (allodynia) may be a direct result of a dysfunction in the brain’s central nervous system.
Fibromyalgia prevents the brain from reading pain signals correctly, and this may cause the skin to feel sore or tender to the touch.
Probably the worst of the fibromyalgia skin disorders is something called tactile allodynia. This disorder makes it very hard to for anything or anyone to make contact with the skin.
Can you imagine someone gently touching your arm or hand and causing you terrible pain? Well, that’s tactile allodynia.
Research studies have led scientists to speculate that fibromyalgia sufferers have highly concentrated proteins beneath their skin.
They believe that the body can interpret these proteins as toxic, which causes the body to treat them as foreign invaders. This immunological response is what creates the rash.
A Swedish researcher has speculated that capillaries beneath the skin of fibromyalgia sufferers were more distorted in shape and less numerous.
As a result, there is reduced blood flow to the skin and surrounding tissues which can sometimes create rashes in fibromyalgia sufferers.
Researchers also speculate that because fibromyalgia sufferers have more amounts of mast cells, which are cells that contain histamines and cytokines.
Chemical releases from these cells, from neurological stimuli, can sometimes produce skin pain and irritation. In this case, is usually not a rash but instead a feeling of burning or heat directly below the skin.
Another interesting theory regarding the causes of fibromyalgia rashes is the result of the central nervous system miscues.
The theory goes that the brain incorrectly processes pain cues and consequently skin rashes occur because of the brain’s misunderstanding of the pain signal.
The fibromyalgia sufferer may exacerbate this by scratching the rashes which exacerbates the redness and severity of the problem.
There are numerous treatments available to help ease the side effects associated with many of the skin disorders cause by fibromyalgia.
Heavy creams and moisturizers are good for relieving dry, cracked skin. After taking a warm bath, these creams should be applied generously to all affected areas.
Prescription creams containing corticosteroids are available for particularly troublesome dry skin.
There are multiple home remedies to address skin issues, as well. One of the most important things you can do is avoid excessive sun exposure, which has proven to be very painful for fibromyalgia patients.
Also, use gentle cleansers – ones that are designed for sensitive skin and don’t contain harsh, abrasive scrubs.
When you are bathing, 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.
Drink plenty of water. Your whole body has to be well hydrated to stay healthy. If your urine is dark yellow, you’re not drinking enough and need to boost your water intake.
Another important tip for women is to 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.
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.