A cutaneous condition means one that affects the skin. And unfortunately, these sorts of conditions seem to be very common among people with fibromyalgia. But that’s not the type of thing you usually think of when you think of fibromyalgia. So, why is it that people with fibromyalgia suffer from skin conditions? What’s the link? And what can you do about it?
Fibromyalgia And Cutaneous Conditions
Fibromyalgia and skin conditions seem to go together. In fact, it’s estimated that almost half of all people with fibromyalgia will develop some kind of skin condition. But nailing down the answer to why that is is tricky. There are so many different kinds of skin conditions, and people with fibromyalgia seem to suffer from a wide range of them.
Let’s start with one of the most common complaints of people with fibromyalgia: chronic itching. Fibromyalgia can lead to a sort of constant itchy feeling that no amount of scratching can soothe. This itch can last for hours or even days with no relief. And if you’ve ever had an itch that you just can’t scratch, you know how frustrating that can be. Many people who suffer from this symptom even say that it interferes with their ability to sleep, compounding the insomnia that fibromyalgia causes.
It’s hard to say what causes this chronic itch, especially since very little research into the subject has been done. The most likely explanation lies in the nerves. Fibromyalgia seems to cause some sort of breakdown in the functioning of the nerves, which causes them to relay a feeling of pain without any external cause. It could be that this same misconnection in the nerves that causes pain is also contributing to the itchy feeling, which is also transmitted to the brain by the nervous system.
But in addition to itching, many people with fibromyalgia experience another condition called xeroderma. Xeroderma is simply a term that means dry skin, but that seems to be a problem that many people with fibromyalgia experience. Again, we don’t know exactly what causes this condition in people with fibromyalgia, but it may have something to do with the way the cells in your skin replicate themselves or related to the immune system.
And speaking of the immune system, it’s behind one of the most troubling forms of skin conditions related to fibromyalgia, autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease is a condition where the body’s immune system begins to attack and destroy your own tissue. Some forms, like lupus, result in immune cells attacking the tissue in your skin. This results in chronic inflammation in the skin and often a red, scaly rash on the face. This rash usually spreads across both cheeks, leading many to call it a “butterfly rash.”
But there are other forms of autoimmune disease that can cause skin problems. Psoriasis is a common one. In cases of psoriasis, the immune cells destroy the cells in your skin. To compensate, your skin cells begin to multiply rapidly, creating large red plaques on the skin.
We don’t know exactly what the relationship is between autoimmune disease and fibromyalgia. For a long time, people have speculated that fibromyalgia itself is an autoimmune disease. But the evidence doesn’t quite suggest this is the case. People with fibromyalgia don’t have the elevated levels of antibodies that are a key sign of autoimmune disease. And they lack the tissue inflammation that most autoimmune conditions cause.
It could be that the stress of fibromyalgia makes you more susceptible to autoimmune disease since stress is known to be a major trigger in this conditions. But until we know more about the relationship we can’t tell for sure.
How Are They Treated?
Regardless of what kind of condition you’re suffering from, you probably want to know how to treat it. The good news is that most of the cutaneous conditions associated with fibromyalgia are fairly easy to treat.
For dry skin, the answer is usually a moisturizing cream. These creams help lock moisture into the skin and combined with staying hydrated are usually enough to resolve any issues caused by dry skin.
When it comes to other conditions, such as itching, it’s a bit harder to find effective treatment. Often, basic allergy medication is effective for giving temporary relief from the itching. But many doctors also prescribe a type of anti-seizure medication called Gabapentin that seems to be effective in granting long-term relief.
And for autoimmune conditions, there are a number of different medications that can help control inflammation. These include basic over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen, corticosteroids, and immunosuppressants.