Controversial Tanning Treatment

Fibromyalgia patients are always seeking new treatments for their debilitating chronic pain. Some of them are now flocking to a North Carolina dermatologist for a tanning treatment many experts decry as dangerous while others swear by tanning as an effective means of alleviating their pain.

Wake Forest University's Dr. Steven Feldman has been offering the treatment to patients who are not getting relief from medication and other standard therapies. Fibromyalgia causes widespread muscle pain that is so severe that sufferers find it hard to cope with their daily functioning. There are other associated symptoms, for instance, cognitive difficulties labeled as fibro-fog by those in the know.

Seeking Relief

Most fibromyalgia patients find that medications help for a time, and then a tolerance is developed and new treatments must be found. Exercise helps, too. But still, many fibromyalgia sufferers aren't getting the relief they seek.

Feldman has found that for these patients, exposure to ultraviolet rays by way of a tanning bed, gives patients some cessation of their painful symptoms. But not everyone is happy about that, "If I were to give a lecture to my dermatology colleagues about this, almost certainly some would find some tomatoes to throw at me," said Feldman.

Feldman was so convinced he'd found a good thing that he authored a study on the subject. He discovered that fibromyalgia sufferers who used tanning beds over a period of six weeks experienced a decrease in their pain, compared to those who spent time in fake tanning beds. Feldman believes that the ultraviolet rays sets off a reaction in which the skin releases endorphins. These molecules are known to make people feel a general sense of well-being, which in turn, can reduce pain and increase a sense of relaxation.

Thumbs Down

Meantime, dermatology experts are giving the treatment the thumbs down and state that young people who enjoy tanning beds raise their risk for melanoma by 75%. University of Miami's Dr. Shasa Hu, commented, "Just once using the tanning bed will give you enough DNA damage to increase your chance of skin cancer."

But Feldman says that there no such thing as a risk-free treatment. Fibromyalgia patients who find no relief elsewhere may be willing to take these risks in order to achieve some easing of their constant pain. The dermatologist says that the U-V tanning beds have also been found to be effective in treating the skin condition known as psoriasis, although the treatment is not recommended in those who do not have fibromyalgia or psoriasis.

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