Is Gabapentin Effective for Fibromyalgia Itching?
Fibromyalgia itching is a symptom of fibromyalgia that you may not have heard of. But the fact is that many people with fibromyalgia suffer from it. And to the people who do, it is a horrible experience. They often find that they can’t sleep because their skin constantly feels like something is crawling across it. Or they scratch themselves bloody trying to find some relief.
Patients with fibromyalgia itching often have a lower quality of life due to their constant itching. They find it hard to sleep due to itching at night. And that makes the fact that it is already hard to sleep with fibromyalgia even worse. The itch is also chronic and can be with someone who suffers from it day and night for days or even years at a time.
And the worst part is that there are very few effective ways to treat it. But Gabapentin is a drug that may help manage your fibromyalgia itching. So what is it? And is it effective at treating fibromyalgia itching?
What Is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is a drug that is usually used to treat seizures. But it has also shown some promise for treating nerve pain, which is why it’s sometimes prescribed for people who suffer from painful nerve conditions like shingles.
It works by blocking some of the receptors in your brain that usually transmit the sensation of pain. That makes it effective in treating people who suffer from nerve disorders like shingles or complications from diabetes that cause nerve damage. The signals from your nerves that make your brain feel what we think of as an “itch” work in the same way. They transmit sensation to the brain, which in turn makes you feel like your skin is itching. So essentially itching starts in the brain more than it starts in the skin. And Gabapentin might slow that reaction down.
This also might make it a potentially effective treatment for itching due to fibromyalgia.
Would It Be Effective For Treating Fibromyalgia Itching?
No one knows exactly what causes people with fibromyalgia to feel itchy, but there are some people who think it is caused by misfiring nerves. If that is true then a drug that blocks the pathways of nerve pain like Gabapentin might be effective in treating the itching sensation associated with some people’s fibromyalgia.
And doctors in New Zealand have long used Gabapentin to treat itching caused by other neurological disorders. Patients in these clinical trials often find that the drug is effective in treating their itching symptoms. Thus, it is one of the drugs that doctors in New Zealand most often use for this condition.
So if fibromyalgia itching does originate in the brain instead of the skin, then it seems reasonable to think that Gabapentin could be an effective treatment. And doctors from other countries have also been prescribing anticonvulsants to help people who suffer from chronic itching.
Dr. Gil Yosipovitch is a scientist at Temple University who specializes in the field of neurological based itching. And in an interview with NPR, he talked about how chronic itching is something that many doctors don’t take seriously enough. They feel like an itch can’t be as bad as chronic pain. But they don’t understand how much constantly feeling an itch that you can’t scratch away can lower your quality of life. And he even wrote a book called “Living With Itch: A Patient’s Guide,” that explores some of the realities of having a disease that causes a constant itching. And it explains some things you can try to help cure your symptoms.
Yosipovitch is even trying to create a specialized field of medicine that handles chronic itching so that medical breakthroughs can be made in treating the condition. In particular, he is focused on what he calls the “itch-scratch cycle.” That’s the fact that itching leads to scratching, which leads to more itching. In his words:
When a doctor tells a patient, stop scratching, it’s easy to say that, but in fact, it’s not easy to do because it really liberates – the scratching – some chemicals. Chemicals like opioids, like morphine-like. In fact, a lot of the patients say the only way to relieve her itch for a couple of hours is significant scratching.
In the interview, he also stated that he often prescribes Gabapentin to his patients, which sometimes confuses his colleagues.
But he explains to them that itching is fundamentally an issue of the nervous system. After all, the nerves in the skin transmit the signals to the brain that triggers the sensation of itching. And your brain encourages you to scratch to cure that itch. But Yosipovitch also found that these kinds of long term itching symptoms were common in people with neurological disorders.
So to Dr. Yosipovitch, it makes sense to prescribe drugs that target the nervous system to people who suffer from chronic itching. And he found that drugs like Gabapentin work.
They target and slow some of the reactions in your nervous system that create the sensation of itching. Which makes them effective in treating some of the symptoms of chronic itching.
So when it comes to your fibromyalgia itching, it definitely seems like Gabapentin and other anti-convulsants could be an effective treatment. But it is important to remember that there isn’t a great deal of research into whether these drugs are effective for fibromyalgia itching specifically.
And it’s important to remember that Gabapentin has a number of side effects. Those include dizziness, loss of balance, or suicidal thoughts.
So be sure to check with your doctor. But Gabapentin may be an effective remedy. It is already used by a number of doctors to treat patients with chronic itching caused by neurological disorders. Which means that if fibromyalgia itching is a result of those same mechanisms in your brain, then Gabapentin should work.