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What You Should Know About Fibromyalgia and Itching

Overview

Highlights

  1. You may experience pruritus, or severe itching, as a symptom of fibromyalgia.
  2. Keep your skin hydrated to reduce your risk for itchy skin.
  3. You may need to try home remedies, over-the-counter medications, or prescription medications to treat your itchy skin.

Fibromyalgia can affect adults of any age or gender. Symptoms of fibromyalgia vary from person to person, and your treatment plan may change several times as the condition progresses. Common symptoms include:

  • constant muscle pain
  • weakness
  • fatigue
  • unexplained pain that travels throughout your body

Some people may also experience pruritus, or severe itching, as a symptom of fibromyalgia. If you’re experiencing persistent itching, keep reading to learn how you can cope with and treat this uncomfortable symptom.

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Causes

Causes

Fibromyalgia can begin during any period of an adult’s life. An exact cause for the condition has not been determined, but it’s believed that there could be a genetic connection. In some people, symptoms begin after experiencing a medical, physical, or personal trauma.

Just as there is no one cause for fibromyalgia, there isn’t a cause for the unexplained itching. Itching is one possible way your nerves can react to the condition.

It’s also possible that itching could be a side effect of medication you are taking for fibromyalgia, such as pregabalin (Lyrica), duloxetine (Cymbalta), or milnacipran (Savella). Always let your doctor know about any side effects that you experience, even if they are not listed as known side effects. Your doctor may need to adjust your dosage or change your medication.

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Treatment

Treatment

There are many treatments for itchy skin. One of the most important things you can do is make sure your skin is properly hydrated because dry skin can make the itching worse. Below are three things you can do to help keep your skin hydrated:

  1. Drink plenty of water.
  2. Limit the time spent in hot showers or baths, or reduce the temperature. Hot showers and baths will dry out your skin.
  3. Apply fragrance-free body lotion to your skin. You can find this in the health and beauty aisles in drugstores and supermarkets.

Keeping your skin hydrated can help prevent itchy skin, but you will likely need to use additional treatments to relieve skin that is already itchy.

Read more: The 8 best remedies for itching »

1. Oatmeal bath

An oatmeal bath may relieve itchy skin. You can create an oatmeal bath by purchasing plain, unflavored oatmeal at your local grocery store. The oatmeal should be really fine. If you want to make it more fine, use a blender or food processor to reduce the size of the oats. You can also buy an oatmeal bath at your drugstore, but make sure it’s fragrance-free so it doesn’t further irritate your skin.

Once you are ready, draw a lukewarm bath and add a cup of oatmeal to the water. Make sure the oatmeal is mixed well in the water before you get into the tub.

Limit your bathing time to 15 to 20 minutes, and make sure the water isn’t too hot, which can dry out your skin and make the itching worse.

After your bath, pay your skin dry with a towel. Apply a fragrance-free body lotion all over your body to moisturize your skin and further help soothe the itch.

A relaxing oatmeal bath may also improve your sleep.

2. Ice cubes or ice packs

Using ice cubes or an ice pack to temporarily numb itchy parts of your body may help you manage extreme itching. Scratching can often make an area itch more, so this temporary relief may help reduce the itching enough that you aren’t tempted to scratch.

3. Meditation

Meditation may help you focus your mind and find a mental escape from the discomfort. While this won’t permanently reduce the itching, it may help you to find some temporary relief.

4. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications

OTC pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help with your discomfort by relieving the inflammation in your nerves that is causing the itching. Your doctor may also be able to prescribe a stronger dosage of acetaminophen.

You can try OTC hydrocortisone anti-itch creams as well. You apply these over your skin where you are experiencing extreme itching for instant, temporary relief.

5. Antianxiety medication

Stress itching. Some people find relief from their itching when taking a prescription antianxiety medication. This will likely not be the first line of treatment.

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Complication

Complications

Scratching your itchy skin can lead to deep scratches, cuts, and possibly scars. The deep scratches, if left open and not covered with a bandage, could become infected. It’s also possible that your symptoms could lead to anxiety and depression.

Persistent itchiness may make it difficult to sleep. Lack of sleep can make fibromyalgia symptoms worse. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing insomnia.

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Seeing a doctor

Should you see a doctor?

If you are experiencing extreme itching, you should talk to your doctor. Your doctor will help you find methods to control your symptoms. Your doctor will also be able to tell you about any new treatments that may help you feel better.

If you have fibromyalgia, it’s important to stay in contact with your doctor and go to regular checkups. There is still a lot about this condition that is unknown, so keeping in close contact with your doctor can help you find the best ways to manage your condition.

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Outlook

Outlook

Fibromyalgia is not yet well-understood, and there is no cure. You can manage many of the symptoms however, including pruritus. Work with your doctor to decide what methods will work best for you. You may be able to manage your symptoms with lifestyle changes, such as reducing your shower times or lowering the water temperature when you bathe. In some people, treatment may require a combination of lifestyle changes and medications. Your treatment needs may also change over time. 

Article resources
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  • Kodner, C. (2015, April 1). Common questions about the diagnosis and management of fibromyalgia. American Family Physician, 91(7), 472-478. Retrieved from
  • Laniosz, V., Wetter., D. A., & Godar, D. A. (2014, July). Dermatologic manifestations of fibromyalgia [Abstract]. Clinical Rheumatology, 33(7), 1009-1013. Retrieved from
  • Living with fibromyalgia, drugs approved to manage pain. (2014, January 31). Retrieved from
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015, October 1). Fibromyalgia: Complications. Retrieved from
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015, October 1). Fibromyalgia: Definition. Retrieved from
  • Questions and answers about fibromyalgia. (2014, July). Retrieved from
  • Tey, H. L., Wallengren, J., & Yosipovitch, G. (2013, January – February). Psychosomatic factors in pruritus. Clinics in Dermatology, 31(1), 31-40. Retrieved from
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