People with fibromyalgia also grapple with a lesser known symptom, skin rash or itchy skin. At first thought, not many will relate itchy skin to the chronic pain disorder. However, skin rash and itch can indicate several medical ailments which are linked to fibromyalgia.
Various groups of researcher have conducted several separate studies to uncover the relationship between fibromyalgia and itchy skin. Here are a few theories behind fibromyalgia skin rash and itch.
An immunological reaction under the skin
Itchy skin or skin rash may arise due to an immunological reaction just under the skin surface. According to early research led by Dr X Caro from Southern California Fibromyalgia Treatment Centre, in Northbridge, CA, immune-reactive proteins found under the skin’s surface in fibromyalgia patients were responsible for skin sensitivities. These proteins are believed to have escaped through the usually bigger pores in blood vessels and are seen as foreign substances in the skin tissues. The body’s immunity react to attack these proteins just under the skin causing the appearance of rash or itch.
Skin microcirculation abnormalities
Skin rash and irritation may also result due to deformation in the microcirculation beneath the skin. Research led by Dr Sprott H, found evidence of distorted structure and function of microcirculation, comprising of capillaries and blood vessels, beneath the skin in patients with fibromyalgia especially near tender points. These abnormalities disturbs the flow of blood to the skin and may be responsible for skin irritation, rashes and queer sensations in the skin.
Increased mast cells and neurological reaction in the skin
A Swedish study found that fibromyalgia patients have significantly higher mast cells in their skin as compared to controls. Mast cells are components of the immune system and contains chemical such as histamines and cytokines. When released, these chemicals cause irritation to the skin tissues around it. This usually occurs during a neurological response.
A misinterpretation of pain by the central nervous system
Sometimes the itch and rash could be due to misinterpretation of pain signals. Fibromyalgia has been linked to a faulty Central Nervous system which can seem to process pain accurately like normal people do. Receptors beneath the skin send sensory messages to the brain which are misread as itch.
How to treat fibromyalgia skin rash and itch
For the treatment of skin rash, itch or burning sensation, over-the-counter skin cream, lotions and moisturizers can help to soothe the skin. Doctors can also prescribe medicated skin creams and lotions for more severe rash.
- Caro XJ. Immunofluorescent studies of skin in primary fibrositis syndrome. Am J Med. 1986 Sep 29; 81 (3A):43-9.
- Caro X J, Wolfe F, Johnston W H, Smith A L. A controlled and blinded study of immunoreactant deposition at the dermal-epidermal junction of patients with primary fibrositis syndrome. J Rheumatol. 1986 Dec;13(6):1086-92.
- Caro X J, Winter E F. Evidence of abnormal epidermal nerve fiber density in fibromyalgia: clinical and immunologic implications. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2014 Jul; 66 (7):1945-54.
- Sprott H et al. Abnormal microcirculation and temperature in skin above tender points in patients with fibromyalgia. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2000 Aug;39(8):917-21.
- Sprott H et al. Microcirculation abnormalities in patients with fibromyalgia – measured by capillary microscopy and laser fluxmetry. Arthritis Res Ther. 2005;7(2):R209-16. Epub 2004 Dec 10.
- Eneström S, Bengtsson A, Frödin T. Dermal IgG deposits and increase of mast cells in patients with fibromyalgia–relevant findings or epiphenomena? Scand J Rheumatol. 1997;26(4):308-13.
- Blanco I et al. Abnormal overexpression of mastocytes in skin biopsies of fibromyalgia patients. Clin Rheumatol. 2010 Dec;29(12):1403-12.