Fibromyalgia Syndrome tends to be accompanied by other conditions, some of them debilitating. Among the most common afflictions seen alongside fibromyalgia are chronic skin irritations and rashes. At least one physician, Charles Lapp, M.D. of Charlotte, NC, says that out of the hundreds of fibromyalgia patients he treats, “Fibromyalgia-related rashes occur in the majority of patients that I see.”
Lapp, and another physician who treats fibromyalgia patients, Daniel Wallace, M.D. of UCLA talked about fibromyalgia-related skin conditions in one issue of the Fibromyalgia Network Journal. The connection between skin tissue sensitivity and fibromyalgia is complicated. Researchers have been puzzling over the link between skin sensitivities and fibromyalgia for two decades.
The earliest studies on this subject are credited to Xavier Caro, M.D. from Northridge, CA. Caro’s research showed that a elevated level of immune-reactive proteins exist just beneath the skin’s surface. The researcher believed that these proteins had slipped through pores located in the blood vessels that supply the skin because, Caro believed, in fibromyalgia patients, the pores are larger than is usual. The theory continues that the body would then view these proteins as foreign substances, since in healthy patients the pores are not large enough to allow these proteins to pass on through into the blood vessels.
While Caro’s assertion is that there is an immune reaction in the skin of fibromyalgia patients, the same reaction is seen in patients who have issues with microcirculation, or a malfunctioning of the capillaries and small blood vessels. Haiko Sprott, M.D., of Switzerland, made the connection between microcirculation and fibromyalgia during research he published in 2004. Sprott found that fibromyalgia patients had fewer capillaries and those they did have possessed an irregular shape. The researcher discovered that the blood flow to the skin and other peripheral tissues was reduced in great measure in those with fibromyalgia.
One Swedish research group found that the number of mast cells was increased four times in the skin tissues of those with fibromyalgia. Mast cells are generated by the immune system and contain substances such as histamine and cytokines, both of which, when released, may be responsible for causing painful reactions in nearby tissues.
It is the neurological system that is responsible for the impulse that causes the mast cells to release their contents. This is called degranulation. The Swedish researchers emphasize that degranulation takes place in skin that appears normal, so that, on the surface, it would be impossible to predict the myriad immunological, circulatory, and neurological irregularities taking place just below the surface of the skin.
When one takes into consideration all that is going on just beneath the skin, it’s not difficult to understand how someone with fibromyalgia might erupt in skin rashes or suffer from painful itching or burning with no warning at all.