No End to the Pain
There seems to be no end to the pain that accompanies fibromyalgia. Everything from internal pain to external pain can be part of the list of symptoms attached to this confusing and often debilitating syndrome. To say that a person suffers with fibromyalgia pain is like saying the United States is a big country. The fact is that there are numerous types of pain and in order to bring relief, each pain has to be treated individually. Unfortunately, there isn’t one pill to deal with it all – there’s no magic bullet.
Hyperalgesia – Making the Pain Worse
The best researched pain and the one most commonly referred to is hyperalgesia. Hyper means excess and algesia is pain. The medical term for pain amplification in FMS is hyperalgesia. The way it is best described is that the brain signals for pain in a person with FMS are amplified, making them more severe than they would be in a person without FMS. It seems to be a combination of situations that causes hyperalgesia: high levels of activity in the pain centers, not enough serotonin, and too much glutamate. Hyperalgesia does not cause pain – it worsens existing pain. That’s why it is important to treat the cause of the pain and not the symptoms of pain if at all possible. Sadly, that’s a very difficult thing to do with fibromyalgia.
Don’t Touch Me!
One of the most tormenting and difficult skin pains a FMS sufferer deals with is called tactile allodynia. The word tactile means touch and allodynia means a painful response to a non-painful stimulus. It is this pain response that makes it impossible for a mother to let her little child grab hold of her legs. Some people think it is bizarre behavior when she says ‘no, don’t touch Mommy’, but the truth is that the pain on the skin is beyond expression and so she’s doing what she can to avoid being touched. A hard thing when you have little kids.
Although some types of pain are more common, tactile allodynia is rare and tends to be associated with painful conditions like neuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia (shingles) and migraine – and fibromyalgia. The nociceptors, specialized nerves that pick up temperature and painful stimuli at the skin, malfunction and send signals to the brain telling it that everything is painful. Central sensitization that is associated with fibromyalgia may be the reason this happens according to some experts. It can present differently for people, sometimes being set off by an allergic response, or tight clothing, or banging into something. Suddenly the skin hurts to touch and the most important thing in the world is to get the instrument that caused the pain removed from the scene. Stripping off clothing that causes discomfort and pain is just one of the reactions a FMS person may have.
Writing on Skin Instead of Paper
Dermatographism, the clinical name for skin writing, is another skin problem common to many with FMS. Red welts or welts with redness surrounding them characterize this condition.
However, what really sets this condition apart is the way the welts form in the pattern of the force against the skin. That is, if a person scratches their arm, then the welt will rise in the shape and lines of the scratching, as if the scratches were etched onto the flesh as the welts or hives rise around it.
The skin area is very itchy prior to the welts rising or the hives appearing. Skin redness with little bumps is another indication of this skin irritation. Just drying off with a towel after a shower can give rise to scratches, bumps and terrible itching.
What is really most troubling about this skin condition is that the dermotographism appears instantly. A person can be totally fine one minute and the next instant the skin becomes itchy with a burning kind of itch.
They scratch, lines arise and welts appear. The problem is that often the scratching is done without the person realizing it – it is an automatic response. By the time they figure out what is happening they have huge red, inflamed, itchy patches with lines through them.
The attack often lasts about 30 minutes or so and then begins to subside. It can flare many times during the day.
Rosacea – That Rosy Glow
Rosacea associated with fibromyalgia is yet another condition of the skin. It features primarily on the face, presenting with inflammation or swelling of the skin around the nose, cheeks and forehead.
Facial flushing and a rosy or red appearance on the skin accompanied by congestion, bumpy lumps especially on the nose caused by swelling of skin tissue, and small blood vessels appearing in the skin are all trademarks of this skin problem.
Although the exact cause of rosacea is not known, it is a skin condition that is often present in those with fibromyalgia. It can be triggered by stress and emotional issues; temperature changes; wind or sun exposure; dairy products; hot showers and numerous other factors.
Skin problems are another symptom of fibromyalgia that simply adds to the already challenging daily life of people who live with the syndrome. Find out more about skin issues associated with fibromyalgia.