Fibromyalgia is a misunderstood syndrome that affects approximately 10 million people in the United States, 90 percent of whom are women. Fibromyalgia is a collection of symptoms that is often difficult to diagnose and is frequently associated with other illnesses. People who suffer from skin issues related to fibromyalgia may have a difficult time obtaining treatment for their symptoms.
Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes pain all over the body, muscle stiffness and severe fatigue, and has been associated with several factors such as poor sleeping habits or stress. It can encompass several other symptoms as well, making diagnosis difficult. According to the Fibromyalgia Association of Houston, other symptoms include numbness and tingling of extremities; anxiety and depression; irritable bowel syndrome; mouth dryness; and skin sensitivities.
People with fibromyalgia often complain of skin rashes that may itch. Some report flaky or dry skin that cracks and is uncomfortable. Approximately 30 percent of people with a diagnosis of lupus also have fibromyalgia. Lupus is characterized by skin rashes as well as other symptoms unrelated to fibromyalgia, such as joint swelling and mouth ulcers. For those that suffer from both lupus and fibromyalgia, skin rashes may appear as redness, or a raised rash that worsens when exposed to sunlight.
Some people with fibromyalgia complain of skin sensitivity to temperature, feeling extremely cold near an air conditioner or burning skin pain on a hot day. They may feel extreme pain from a minor skin irritation and may bruise easily. Some fibromyalgia sufferers have been shown to have increased levels of Substance P in spinal fluid, which is a chemical that increases the response of the nerves to painful stimuli. They then feel much more pain and sensitivity over minor skin irritations.
Treatment of skin conditions associated with fibromyalgia involves managing the underlying syndrome. Because fibromyalgia is associated with poor sleep and stress, many patients have benefited from a prescription of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, typically used in the treatment of depression. Other medications, such as those used to increase sleep, may also help with symptoms. By treating some of the underlying causes, the body may have a decrease in other symptoms such as skin sensitivity and rashes.
People suffering from skin issues associated with fibromyalgia can also take steps to manage discomfort at home. Avoiding caffeine, which can increase the body’s receptiveness to painful stimuli, is important to reduce some skin sensitivity. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly improves energy and may contribute to restful sleep. Using lotion can help with dry or cracked skin, and hydrocortisone cream can be used for inflammation associated with a rash. Check with a doctor if a rash spreads or does not respond to treatment.
- Fibromyalgia Information Foundation: Do I Have Lupus or Fibromyalgia?
- Fibromyalgia Association of Houston: Fibromyalgia Syndrome
- “The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Fibromyalgia;” W. S. Wilke; 2010