Erythromelalgia, or EM, is a rare disorder that can occur at any age and affects both genders. The cause of EM is usually unknown but sometimes is secondary to other medical conditions including autoimmune, neurologic or blood disorders. Lupus, polycythemia vera and multiple sclerosis are examples. Some people with EM have other family members with the disease. Recently, an EM gene was identified as were several mutations to this gene. Apparently each affected family carries a different mutation.
Symptoms of EM include hands or feet that are very red to purple in color, are perhaps swollen, hot to the touch, and have burning pain. The intensity of the symptoms varies from person to person. Some notice a continual burning pain while others are troubled with “flare-ups” or episodes lasting from minutes to days in length.
Warm temperatures seem to be the most frequent trigger for EM episodes. Flare-ups are provoked by heat and exercise, and symptoms are relieved by cooling and elevating the affected extremities. Others have found that foods, spices like MSG, beverages (particularly alcohol) and some drugs can make EM symptoms worse. read more