Erythromelalgia: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Erythromelalgia: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Erythromelalgia (EM) is a rare skin disease in which a person suffers acute burning sensation along with marked redness and inflammation in different body parts, particularly in the hands and feet. This medical condition normally affects both sides of a person’s body. However, it can impact one side as well.

Types of Erythromelalgia

Erythromelalgia is categorized into two types: primary erythromelalgia and secondary erythromelalgia.

Primary Erythromelalgia: Primary erythromelalgia may be further classified as familial (indicating autosomal dominant inheritance) and sporadic (occurring randomly). Genetic mutation is regarded as the cause of familial primary erythromelalgia. Sporadic primary erythromelalgia has been known to develop in a spontaneous manner and without having any relation to underlying medical conditions. Symptoms of primary erythromelalgia can be caused or activated by various factors such as changes in temperature, spicy food, heat, alcohol, over-exertion, and even exercise.

Secondary Erythromelalgia: This type of Erythromelalgia is considered a medical condition in itself or a symptom of another medical disorder. This condition is triggered as a result of autoimmune disorders, mushroom poisoning, mercury poisoning, essential thrombocytosis, and hypercholesterolemia.

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There is another classification for erythromelalgia: early-onset or juvenile erythromelalgia and late-onset or adult erythromelalgia. Early-onset erythromelalgia usually impacts an individual before the age of 20, more often before the age of 10. Late-onset erythromelalgia usually impacts people who are in the age group of 40 to 60 years. Late-onset erythromelalgia develops as primary erythromelalgia in most patients.

Causes of Erythromelalgia

The exact cause that triggers erythromelalgia is still not clear for the majority of the cases. However, it is suspected that several factors can trigger erythromelalgia. Among the potential causes are the following:

  • Progressing age
  • Fungal infections or other infections
  • Genetic conditions
  • Neurological disorders
  • Heavy metal poisoning
  • Certain diseases like Sciatica, Hypercholesterolemia, Fabry’s disease, Myeloproliferative disease, etc.
  • Deficiency of nutrients, including pantothenic acid
  • Extreme sweating, mainly in feet
  • Wearing tight fitting shoes and socks for long durations

Symptoms of Erythromelalgia

The signs and symptoms of the disease include the following:

  • This disorder is characterized by aching, painful, warm feet or hands that turn red.
  • The upper extremities of the disease impact the hands and fingers of the patient.
  • The lower extremities of the condition reach down to the soles and toes of the feet. They are among the most affected areas in this skin disease. In some cases, the pain is known to reach up to the knees as well.
  • While some patients may suffer from continuous burning sensation, some others may experience sudden spells or attacks of burning. The duration of these sudden spells can last from a few minutes to even days.
  • Experiencing itching sensation is also common in erythromelalgia when the attack triggers. The itching then progresses to extreme pain and a burning feel.
  • When erythromelalgia attack takes place, the extremities turn swollen, warm, and tender.
  • Symptoms of erythromelalgia can also occur in other parts of the body, such as face and ears, though they are infrequent cases.

Diagnosis of Erythromelalgia

Diagnosis of erythromelalgia involves identifying the underlying cause of the attack. If no underlying cause of the attack can be found, the erythromelalgia is often classified as primary.

Treatment for Erythromelalgia

The treatment procedure for both primary erythromelalgia and secondary erythromelalgia consists of drug therapy, conservative measures, and surgical intervention.

The conservative treatment measures include cooling and elevating the affected area in order to bring relief to the patient. But care must be exercised while administering cooling effect or cold water immersions else it can lead to other problems. Frequent immersion in cold water and the resulting changes in temperature can cause the skin to react. This can also lead to other issues such as ulcers, infections, gangrene, and in extreme cases amputation also.

There are also certain types of oral medicines that can bring relief to the patient. If both the drug therapy and the conservative measures fail to provide relief to the patient, then surgery may be considered as an option for treatment.

As this is a rare medical condition, treatment must always be carried under an expert medical practitioner. If you or one of your family members is suffering from this condition, you can get help, support, and treatment from the knowledgeable doctors at XpertDox.

Final words

Erythromelalgia is a medical condition that can cause much pain and suffering to not just the patients but to their family members as well. However, with correct diagnosis and proper treatment by expert doctors, a patient can overcome the pain and distress associated with this disease and expects to lead a normal life once more.