If you are living with Fibromyalgia you don’t need me to tell you how AWFUL itching skin can be. It seems like no matter what you do there’s no way around it once it hits. Itching with Fibromyalgia can happen at any time of year, but itchy winter skin during the colder months can be unbearable with this condition.
There are many ways to relieve itching in winter but first, it is important to know the cause of the itching when you have fibromyalgia. It may be that you are experiencing sensations below the skin, on the skin itself, or a combination of the two. To find relief from dry itchy skin you must first pinpoint the reasons why you are experiencing it so that you can relieve factors contributing to your discomfort.
The Cause of Itchy Skin from Fibromyalgia
The itching caused by Fibromyalgia can be a form of paraesthesia. It can feel like itching, burning, or even a sensation of insects crawling on the skin in some cases. Parasthesia is caused by various forms of pressure on a nerve. This pressure constricts the information sent to and from the brain from traveling properly.
In Fibromyalgia, this sensation is caused because of issues with the central nervous system. Studies have shown that in Fibromyalgia the central nervous system is overactive. The peripheral nerves are believed to not function properly in Fibromyalgia, sending heightened impulses from the brain. This can lead to sensations of pain or paresthesia in the form of numbness, tingling, or itching.
Dry skin from winter weather can cause this condition to be even more unbearable by adding topical itching to that coming from our nerves with fibromyalgia. This compound effect can leave those with fibromyalgia uncomfortable no matter how hard they try to relieve the itch.
How to Stop Itchy Winter Skin from Fibromyalgia
It is important to pinpoint the cause of the itching. If you are having more of a burning or stinging itch it may be that you are dealing with paraesthesia. In this case, topical treatments such as hydrocortisone or moisture-rich lotions will not be an effective treatment. However, there are ways that you can protect your skin from winter dryness to help relieve the increased itching that can happen in winter.
Hydrate Inside and Out
Drinking 8 glasses of water each day is a great way to begin tackling itchy skin in winter. When we become dehydrated our cells begin to pull moisture from the interstitial space (the space between our cells). This causes the skin cells to dry out which leads to itching. By drinking the recommended daily amount of water we can keep our cells hydrated and itch free.
A steamy shower is another great way to hydrate the skin. However, a shower that is too hot can be counterproductive by drying the skin out. Using water that is too hot can also strip the skin of important oils and fats that help keep moisture locked into our cells. It is recommended that showers be moderately warm in winter but not so hot that it causes redness or irritation to the skin.
While in the shower it is important to look at the products that you are using. Exfoliating the skin is a great way to clear off dead skin cells and relieve itching. However, you don’t want to overdo it as this can cause irritation and in turn more itching. A mild exfoliator a couple of times a week is the best route. A product with oatmeal is a great option as the high levels of fat found in oatmeal can help soothe irritated skin.
Choose Your Lotion Wisely
Before I knew that I had fibromyalgia I thought that I could just use my favorite scented lotion and call it a day. After a while though, it became apparent that my skin smelled amazing but was still dry and itchy no matter how much I put on. The more I looked into ingredients I realized that all of the scents I loved were actually doing more harm than good for my skin. Even lotions that are labeled as unscented can still have additives that are irritating to the skin. Although you may miss smelling like pumpkin spice marshmallows or cherry blossoms it’s best to go with a lotion that is scent-free when using it to treat dry itchy skin.
Another ingredient to avoid when it comes to choosing the best lotion for dry skin is cetyl alcohol. This additive is used to help give the skin a non-greasy, quick-drying feeling when using a lotion. However, this effect can also cause the skin itself to dry out as the alcohol disrupts the fatty layer of the epidermis (the top layer of our skin). Finding products without cetyl alcohol can be difficult, but beneficial to those looking to relieve itchy winter skin.
Use Humidity to Combat Dry Winter Skin
Many times the air inside of our homes can be as dry as the air outside of our homes in winter. The conditions created by heating systems can be arid and irritating to our skin. A great way to counteract the drying effects of indoor air in winter is to use a humidifier.
Humidifiers help to lock moisture into the skin and keep the cells of our skin from drying out and becoming irritated. They are also great at keeping nasal passages, eyes, and other areas from drying out and becoming irritated during winter months.
It is important to be sure that you are purchasing a humidifier that is the right power and capacity for the area you are trying to cover. Both warm mist and cool mist humidifiers are available. The latter is more energy efficient while the warm mist variety is believed to be less likely to harbor harmful germs and bacteria. Ultimately, it will depend on your personal needs and preference when choosing the best humidifier for treating dry skin.
Choosing Winter Clothing Wisely
Many times there is a tendency to wear various layers and heavier fabrics when winter weather hits. Naturally, we want to be warm when the air turns cool. However, this may not be the best strategy when we are dealing with itching skin in winter too.
Loose cotton clothing is the best option to keep skin from becoming irritated and itchy in winter. If wearing heavier items such as sweaters it is best to wear a cotton layer beneath to keep the fibers of the sweater from irritating the skin.
Moisture-wicking fabric is a great option if you find yourself sweating from heavy layers in winter months. This can help relieve itching caused by sweat drying to the skin beneath our clothing.
Avoid Stress to Relieve Itching in Winter
It’s no secret that stress can cause fibromyalgia symptoms such as pain and brain fog to worsen. However, the same can be said for itching from paraesthesia caused by fibromyalgia. Any time that we are under stress our body releases a hormone called cortisol. This hormone tells our central nervous system what to do in response to that stress. Unfortunately, due to the disruption in our central nervous system in fibromyalgia, these messages can become unclear. This causes our brain to produce a paraesthesia response or a pain response in some cases.
It is important to take time for self-care and not let ourselves get overly encumbered in stress when we are living with fibromyalgia. Even though many of us struggle with wanting to get more done or have more spoons throughout the day it is important to remember that we may be doing more harm than good by ignoring the impact that stress is having on our bodies.
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