Skin Rashes and Fibromyalgia Syndrome
The most common symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome are the widespread muscle pain and allodynia (an extreme pain response to pressure). Some people find that they also develop skin rashes and other skin disorders and changes associated with fibromyalgia syndrome. These can be distressing, making people feel uncomfortable and conspicuous or unattractive, and can add to the feelings of depression and isolation.
Skin Rashes and Fibromyalgia SyndromePeople with fibromyalgia syndrome are more likely to have sensitive skin than the rest of the population, and between 50% and 80% of people with fibromyalgia syndrome will develop skin rashes or other skin complaints. These can affect already disturbed sleep, and add to the allodynia, making it even more difficult to find clothes that are comfortable.
The rash is usually red, and may be raised and bumpy. It can also be sore or itchy, or cause a crawling sensation in the skin. Some rashes could be a reaction to medications – if this is possible, always consult a doctor, nurse or pharmacist. A hypoallergenic moisturiser, a gentle cream designed for nappy rash such as Sudocrem, or an over-the-counter corticosteroid cream, may help.
Some people with fibromyalgia syndrome are sensitive to light (photosensitive), and this can cause skin reddening, soreness and rashes. High factor sun creams may help.
What Causes Skin Problems in Fibromyalgia Syndrome?The exact cause behind the skin problems in fibromyalgia syndrome is not completely clear. People with fibromyalgia syndrome seem to have increased immune system activity under the skin. This could lead to release of histamine, which can lead to itching, rashes and skin discomfort, and heparin, which reduces blood clotting and could lead to development of bruises. If this is the cause, antihistamine tablets and creams may help.
Skin rashes can also be a sign of lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE – also see ‘Fibromyalgia Syndrome and Lupus’), which has similar symptoms to fibromyalgia syndrome, but is an autoimmune disease. Any concerns about diagnosis should be discussed with a doctor or nurse.
Other Skin Complaints in Fibromyalgia SyndromeAnother skin symptom in fibromyalgia syndrome is itching. In fibromyalgia syndrome, while the brain often misinterprets pressure signals as pain, it may also become further confused and wrongly interpret touch or pressure, triggering an itching sensation. Putting cold packs or cold compresses on the areas that are itching may help. Other skin sensations include numbness, tingling, a crawling sensation, or a feeling of burning.
People with fibromyalgia syndrome tend to develop dry skin, which can worsen the itching. This can occur anywhere on the body, but may be most severe in the hands and fingers. To treat or prevent this, avoid harsh soaps and shower gels and keep skin well moisturised, especially after baths and showers – this will also reduce any itching. Avoid anything with too many artificial fragrances – cocoa butter or shea butter, or hypoallergenic baby products may help. Corticosteroid creams may also help, but consult a doctor or pharmacist first.
The skin in people with fibromyalgia syndrome is tender to the touch, particularly at the so-called tender points or trigger points (allodynia), and they may find that they bruise or scar more easily, and that bruises take longer to heal. Skin colour can change, becoming darker – this may be related to over-production of melatonin.