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Erythromelalgia

Erythromelalgia is a rare condition that causes burning pain and redness in certain parts of your body.

Erythromelalgia mainly affects the feet. Symptoms include heat, pain and redness.

Cooling or elevating the area may help relieve erythromelalgia. There are also creams, gels, sprays, tablets and medicines given into a vein.

Often it’s not clear what causes erythromelalgia. Sometimes it's caused by another medical condition or a faulty gene inherited from a parent.

Read more on the NHS website.

Erythromelalgia mainly affects the feet. Symptoms include heat, pain and redness.

Symptoms of erythromelalgia

The 3 main symptoms of erythromelalgia are heat, pain and redness in the skin.

The feet are most commonly affected, but the hands, arms, legs, ears and face can be, too.

Red blotches on the hands caused by erythromelalgia.

The pain can range from mild, with only a minor tingling feeling like pins and needles, up to a severe burning pain, which can be bad enough to make walking, standing, socialising, exercising and sleeping difficult.

It can have a significant impact on work or school life.

People with erythromelalgia typically suffer episodes or "flare-ups" of pain lasting from a few minutes to days.

The flare-ups usually start as an itching sensation, which worsens to pain, and tender mottled, red skin that feels warm or hot to the touch.

Other symptoms may include:

Read more on the NHS website.

Cooling or elevating the area may help relieve erythromelalgia. There are also creams, gels, sprays, tablets and medicines given into a vein.

Self-care

Cooling or elevating the affected part of the body may help relieve symptoms.

The skin can be cooled using a fan, cool water, a cool surface or cool gel packs.

But avoid using ice or anything that's too cold, and do not soak hands or feet for a long time in cold water.

This can lead to hypothermia or skin damage.

And there's also a risk the change in temperature may trigger a flare-up when the affected area warms up again.

Medical treatments

Medicines for the skin

Some medicines that are applied directly to the skin (topical medicines) have been found to help relieve the symptoms of erythromelalgia.

These may be in the form of creams, gels, sprays or patches. You may be prescribed a capsaicin cream or patch to make the heat receptors in your skin less sensitive.

A local anaesthetic called lidocaine may also be prescribed in the form of a cream, gel or spray.

Your doctor will be able to give you more information about these medicines and if they're right for you.

You can also speak to your pharmacist about lidocaine creams.

Medicines taken by mouth

A number of different medicines taken by mouth (orally) may help to relieve the symptoms of erythromelalgia.

You may need to try several different medicines, under the supervision of your doctor, before you find the one or the combination that works best for you.

Your treatment options will also depend on the type of erythromelalgia you have.

Many treatments require referral to a specialist centre so benefits and potential side effects can be closely monitored.

The types of medicine your doctor may prescribe include:

  • dietary supplements – such as magnesium, which can help open up your blood vessels
  • aspirin – only used for adults, not for children
  • anti-epilepsy drugs – such as gabapentin or carbamazepine
  • blood pressure drugs – medicine to either open up your blood vessels and increase blood flow, or beta blockers to help reduce blood flow, depending on the cause of your erythromelalgia
  • low doses of antidepressants – such as duloxetine, venlafaxine, amitriptyline or nortriptyline
  • prescription-only painkillers

Medicines given through a drip

In some cases, when oral medicine has not managed to control the symptoms, medicine may be given directly into the bloodstream through a drip (intravenous infusion).

Lidocaine, a local anaesthetic that can help nerve-related pain, can be given this way. But how long it works for varies between people.

Your doctor will explain this procedure to you and how you should prepare for it.

Read more on the NHS website.

Often it’s not clear what causes erythromelalgia. Sometimes it's caused by another medical condition or a faulty gene inherited from a parent.

Read more on the NHS website.