Fibromyalgia itching is one of those symptoms of fibromyalgia that you don’t hear much about. But for people who live with it, it can be a nightmare.
But what causes fibromyalgia itching? And can the clothing you wear make it worse, or make it easier to manage?
WHAT CAUSES FIBROMYALGIA ITCHING?
People with fibromyalgia sometimes report that their skin sometimes feels itchy. They often have trouble sleeping at night because they feel like there is something crawling on or under their skin. It can sometimes last for hours or even days, which makes it hard to deal with for many people.
This symptom is usually not the result of anything irritating the skin, but rather seems to be caused by their nerves overreacting to an imaginary stimulus. No one knows exactly what causes this to happen in people who suffer from fibromyalgia, and not everyone who has the disease suffers from it.
Some speculate that it is caused by an immune response. And others think it is caused by damaged connections between nerve endings. Dr. Gil Yosopovitch, who heads the Dermatology Department at Temple University, believes that this is what’s behind fibromyalgia itching:
I would say, from my experience, there are a lot of overlaps of people who have some types of chronic pain and they’re in the same spectrum of chronic itch, and they could have chronic itch. This is not well mentioned, but for patients who have, for example, fibromyalgia, if it causes chronic pain, a lot of times they complain also of chronic itch. So it won’t surprise me, people who have irritable bowel syndrome, which is another form of – all these aspects of disease have something in common – they have a hypersensitization of the nerve fibers and it’s very similar to what I described before, with a patient with chronic itch is that the nerves are acting wacky; they’re just firing all over. And that’s why it’s so severe and why it’s so difficult to treat these patients.
So probably the best explanation for what causes that constant itching with fibromyalgia is caused by misfiring nerves that create an itching sensation in your brain. But while there is no definitive answer about what causes this symptom, we do know that there are things you can do to help manage it.
DO THE CLOTHES YOU WEAR MAKE FIBROMYALGIA ITCHING WORSE?
Some people who report itching with fibromyalgia have said that certain clothing can make the feeling worse. That makes sense on one level. After all, who hasn’t had an irritating tag on their collar that bothered their skin?
Tight clothing can sometimes increase irritation of the skin. And fabrics like wool are often itchy when worn without a base layer. It’s possible that these kinds of clothing make your fibromyalgia itching worse.
Finally, clothing can sometimes contain microscopic mites or insects that can cause you to feel itchy. And certain people have sensitivities to laundry detergents which might account for itching.
ARE THERE CLOTHES THAT HELP REDUCE ITCHING?
Cotton or synthetic fabrics are often less irritating. So it might be worth making a switch if you feel these fabrics help reduce your symptoms.
Avoid wearing tight clothing or clothing made from irritating materials. And switch to hypo-allergenic detergent, which should help if harsh detergents are aggravating your symptoms. The clothing you wear can also hold small amounts of detergent after you wash them. So it can be helpful to not only switch to a hypo-allergenic soap, but also wash your clothes a second time in just cold water. That will help eliminate any left over detergent, which helps get rid of any extra irritation.
But while getting rid of irritating clothing might help reduce the amount of itching you experience, it’s unlikely that it will help very much with your fibromyalgia itching. Since the condition is most likely caused by the nervous system or an over-active immune system, the itching is probably not coming from the skin directly, but from the brain.
And the impact that clothing touching the skin causes to people suffering from fibromyalgia itching is probably one of the least significant factors when it comes to their symptoms.
WHAT ARE SOME OTHER OPTIONS?
With that being said, there is evidence that other methods can help sooth some of the itching symptoms.
Things like oral antihistamines might help reduce the itching. And people who take them before bed report that the drowsiness they cause helps them sleep through the worst of the itching they do experience. And finally, icing the affected area helps to numb it and might be effective for some people.
No matter what you do, try to avoid scratching. Scratching can break the skin and lead to bacterial infections.
There are a number of other things you can use to help treat your fibromyalgia itching. There’s a lot of evidence that the itching is actually caused by the interactions between your nerves. And diseases like fibromyalgia lead to the nerve signals being damaged or over-active. They then transmit signals to your brain that it interprets as itching.
So the best way to treat fibromyalgia itching seems to be drugs that can help calm those over-active nerve signals. Anticonvulsants are great for treating these kinds of conditions because they are designed to slow the interaction between nerves that create seizures.
Drugs like Gabapentin are already used to treat people with chronic itching conditions and are generally effective for a lot of people. Look for doctors who specialize in chronic itching conditions, and they will usually be able to prescribe something that is effective for you.
The clothing can help with your symptoms, as limiting the amount of irritation you have on your skin will make it easier to prevent that itching. But it is probably worth your time to look into some more effective, medical methods of managing your symptoms.