What is erythromelalgia?
Erythromelalgia is a rare condition that primarily affects the extremities, which are the feet and the hands. It is characterized by an intense, burning pain with redness in these areas as well as increased skin temperature. These sensations can be episodic or almost continuous in nature, and they can affect one side, or both sides, of the body.
What causes erythromelalgia?
The specific underlying cause of erythromelalgia remains unknown, but some speculate that it results from abnormalities in the narrowing and widening of certain blood vessels, which in turn lead to abnormalities of blood flow to the extremities. Erythromelalgia may be an isolated condition (most cases) or result from other disorders, and may be either sporadic or familial in an autosomal dominant manner.
What are the symptoms of erythromelalgia?
Symptoms of erythromelalgia may occur gradually, with the condition remaining relatively mild for years, or they may occur suddenly and become more severe over a span of a few weeks. As noted above, the condition is characterized by severe, burning pain, redness, swelling, and increased skin temperature, which all occur mostly in the feet. These flare ups may be triggered by heat exposure or exercise.
How is erythromelalgia diagnosed?
Erythromelalgia is diagnosed through a clinical evaluation of the characteristic symptoms of the disease. Patient and family history can also be helpful, but most often, it is most beneficial to perform specialized tests to help rule out other possible conditions with similar signs and symptoms. To help confirm a diagnosis of erythromelalgia, a physician may recommend exercise or heating an affected region to provoke a flare.
What are the available treatments for erythromelalgia?
Individuals with erythromelalgia typically can receive relief from their symptoms by cooling the affected areas, whether by cold air or cold water, though it is important to note that repeated immersion may trigger symptom episodes.
Topical medications and oral medications can also be used, through trial and error, to help achieve relief.