In recent years, more and more people are learning about fibromyalgia and its various symptoms. Years ago, people with this disease were told that it was all in their heads; today, fibromyalgia is a named disorder with a specific diagnostic protocol.
As a result of this, when someone says they have fibromyalgia, people (and doctors) are more likely to be familiar with the disease.
They might know that pain is a common symptom—usually pain that is widespread throughout the muscles and joints.
People also know that chronic fatigue is a common issue with fibromyalgia; with sufferers sometimes needing to take to their beds during a particularly bad bout.
However, fibromyalgia also causes many other symptoms that can be frustrating for sufferers to experience, as well as hard for them to explain to those who have not experienced them themselves.
Many people with fibromyalgia suffer from severe migraine headaches. They may also experience episodes of sensitivity to almost everything; loud noises, bright lights or even seemingly light scents may be unbearable.
Part of this hypersensitivity may be the inability to withstand any sort of touch. Skin sensitivity (as well as tingling and numbness in the extremities) is a rather common issue for people with fibromyalgia.
In addition to skin sensitivity, they might notice episodes of heavy sweating, temperature fluctuations and flushing. Although fibromyalgia and flushing might not seem to be related, here’s what we know.
Fibromyalgia and Hypersensitivity
Hypersensitivity (for instance, as mentioned above, to lights, sounds, scents, and touch) is something that many fibromyalgia patients have experienced.
Doctors believe that people with fibromyalgia have something called central sensitization. This condition causes the central nervous system to become overwhelmed with information, processing it in a way that causes things to go haywire.
Lights suddenly seem too bright and sounds that most people find reasonable are deafening or startling to those with central sensitization. Gentle scents are processed as being overly strong.
Central sensitization can also cause extreme sensitivity of the skin. Touch, as well as sensations of heat and cold, are intensified, resulting in discomfort or pain.
This can cause the person to experience temperature fluctuations, which can lead to hot flashes and skin flushing. Other theories as to what causes this kind of sensitivity are possible hypothyroidism, as well as poor circulation.
Whatever the cause, sensitivity to temperature and skin flushing can be unpleasant experiences, especially when combined with other fibromyalgia symptoms.
On the mild end of the spectrum, many fibromyalgia sufferers say that they constantly feel either too hot or too cold.
At the severe end of the symptom spectrum (perhaps during a flare up), patients say that extreme cold and heat can be very painful. These experiences can raise stress levels, which, in turn, can make overall pain levels worse.
What Can I Do About Skin Flushing?
If you’re experiencing temperature fluctuations and skin flushing, it’s important to make an appointment with your doctor.
He or she will likely check to see if these symptoms are related to a poorly-functioning thyroid. They will also make sure that hormones aren’t the cause, as well as check to be sure your blood pressure and circulation are normal.
One strategy to control symptoms like skin flushing (and the temperature fluctuations that can cause it) is to work to calm your central nervous system.
As discussed above, an overactive central nervous system can cause everything to be amplified, from sound, lights, and temperatures to pain levels. Make every effort to turn your environment into a soothing one; keep lights and sounds low.
Getting plenty of rest can be a struggle with fibromyalgia (as insomnia and disturbed sleep are common symptoms), but can help with settling down one’s nervous system and reducing pain and sensitivity.
Since temperature fluctuations during sleep can lead to disturbed rest and episodes of hot flashes and flushing, keeping your temperature steady, cool and comfortable as you sleep is key.
Set your thermostat to a comfortable temperature before bedtime or sleep with a fan turned on. Have plenty of blankets handy in case you get too cold in the middle of the night.
On that note, having a blanket handy during the day isn’t a bad idea, either. Being prepared is important with all fibromyalgia symptoms—and particularly temperature fluctuations.
Take a blanket to places where you might get cold. Even better—dress in layers so that you won’t get cold, but can shed off a sweatshirt or light jacket if you start to get overheated and experience flushing.
You can also keep cold packs in your fridge or freezer to use during bouts of flushing. A hot bath or a cool shower is another quick way to even out your body temperature.
Autogenic training is another technique that people find helpful in dealing with skin flushing and sensitivity to temperature.
This kind of training helps you use your mind and breathing in order to control things such as your blood pressure, body temperature and stress level.
It’s not that your flushing is in your head; it’s that there is a strong connection between the mind and the body.
This is particularly true with fibromyalgia patients, as doctors have noted the role that the central nervous system plays with overstimulation of the senses, as well as stress and anxiety levels.
Using techniques such as slow, controlled, deep breathing from the diaphragm, autogenic training is particularly helpful with hot flashes and the skin flushing that results.
It also uses visualization techniques to help calm the mind. These techniques have been proven to slow breathing rates, pulse rates, as well as lower body temperature. Achieving results through these kinds of techniques takes practice, however.
It’s advisable to learn and work on these kinds of exercises during times when your stress levels are low and your body temperature normal; once you master them under normal circumstances, it will be easier to access them during times when things are out of whack.