Since your skin is the largest organ in your body, chronic pain in that region can become a huge nuisance. Many different conditions may contribute to sensitive skin. However, it can be hard to figure out just why your skin feels sensitive or even painful. Here’s a look at some conditions that can make your skin sensitive to touch, so you can find the treatment option right for you.
Firstly, shingles, an infection from the chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster virus), causes a very painful, blistery rash. After you’ve contracted chickenpox, the virus remains inactive in your body. Later in life, the inactive virus may reactivate, turning into shingles (herpes zoster).
If you are over 40 years of age and have been exposed to the chickenpox virus, you are at risk for developing shingles. Increased risk factors include being older than 50 years of age and having a weakened immune system.
The shingles rash may be located anywhere on your body, but most commonly wraps around your torso. In addition, symptoms normally only affect one side of your body, often in a band across your skin. In some cases, you may experience postherpetic neuralgia, one of the most common complications of shingles. This may cause burning pain in your skin long after the shingles rash has disappeared.
Common shingles symptoms include:
- Sensitivity to touch
- Pain, burning, numbness or tingling
- A red rash that starts a few days after the pain begins
- Blisters that fill with fluid, open up and then crust over
Other shingles symptoms include:
- Light sensitivity
Shingles symptoms manifest in people differently and the pain may be very intense. While a painful rash is common, some people never develop it.
If you suspect you have shingles, contact your doctor right away. It’s especially important to seek medical help if you:
- have a rash around your eye or a widespread rash
- are over 60 years old
- have a weakened immune system
Common treatments for skin pain due to shingles include:
- antiviral medications (acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir)
- pain-relieving medications ( OTC acetaminophen)
- home remedies (wet compresses, calamine lotion, and colloidal oatmeal baths)
Sensitivity to touch due to tactile allodynia, thermal allodynia or mechanical allodynia is a common symptom of fibromyalgia. When you have allodynia, your body sends pain signals from non-painful stimuli. In fact, even lightly touching your skin can feel unbearably painful.
Another common symptom is a tingling sensation. That tingling feeling might be in one specific area or widespread over your body. As with any chronic health condition, certain things may trigger your fibromyalgia symptoms to worsen, causing increased skin sensitivity.
Other fibromyalgia symptoms include:
- Numbness and tingling in hands, arms, feet, and legs
- Fatigue and problems sleeping
- Concentration and memory problems (a*k*a fibro fog)
- Body stiffness
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Problems urinating
- Painful menstrual cramps
- Anxiety or depression
Typically, fibromyalgia occurs with other types of health conditions, such as migraine headaches, autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, and irritable bowel syndrome. Often, fibromyalgia symptoms improve once other health conditions are addressed.
Common treatments for skin pain due to fibromyalgia include:
- lidocaine and pregabalin
- electrical stimulation and hypnotherapy
Autoimmune diseases occur when your immune system mistakenly attacks your body. These conditions are systemic, affecting the entire body. Often, autoimmune diseases that don’t directly affect the skin may cause skin sensitivity or redness. These autoimmune diseases include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Thyroid diseases (Graves’ disease)
However, some types of autoimmune diseases directly affect the skin. For example, psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are examples of autoimmune diseases that directly affect the skin. These conditions cause a build-up of skin cells that may appear scaly and red. Approximately 30% of those living with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis, an inflammatory form of arthritis.
Common psoriatic arthritis symptoms include:
- Pain, tenderness and/or swelling in tendons
- Swollen fingers and toes
- Stiffness, pain, throbbing, swelling and tenderness in one or more joints
- Reduced range of motion
- Morning stiffness and tiredness
- Nail changes
- Redness and pain of the eye, such as conjunctivitis
See your doctor regularly and talk about your skin symptoms. Your autoimmune disease treatment plan may need to be modified if skin pain is an issue.
Common treatments for skin pain due to autoimmune diseases include:
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
- Steroid injections
- Topical treatments (topical corticosteroids, vitamin D analogues, anthralin, topical retinoids, calcineurin inhibitors, salicylic acid, coal tar, moisturizers)
- Light therapy
Dermatitis is a general term covering different types of skin inflammation. Typically, dermatitis causes an itchy rash and swollen or red skin. For instance, eczema, dandruff, and allergic reaction rashes are all forms of dermatitis.
If you come into contact with something you are allergic to, you may have an allergic reaction. Hives, a common skin condition from an allergic reaction, can cause an itchy and painful rash. Anytime you have or suspect an allergic reaction, it’s important to see your doctor or go to an urgent care clinic immediately.
Common treatments for skin pain due to dermatitis include:
- corticosteroid creams, gels or ointments
- topical antiseptics
Having skin sensitive to touch may be a sign of an underlying condition, such as some of the ones mentioned here. However, there are many conditions that may cause sensitive skin. It’s important to talk with your doctor about your skin sensitivities and other symptoms, so you can get on the right treatment plan.
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