What Should You Know About Erythromelalgia?

Erythromelalgia (EM) is a serious condition that causes severe redness, burning, and pain in the hands, feet, and other body parts. If you are dealing with this disease, below is more information.

Please remember that there is hope with EM, and you can find ways to deal with it, including talking to an online therapist to manage the emotional and mental aspects of the disorder. 


EM is a type of arterial disease that affects the limbs, hands, and feet in most cases. The cause of the disorder is unknown in most people, and it usually affects those who are at least in their 20s. However, there are rare hereditary forms of EM that begin at birth or in childhood. 

A less common form of EM is related to using certain drugs, including bromocriptine and nifedipine. 

EM Symptoms

Erythromelalgia is usually referred to as primary or secondary, and the common symptoms include aching of soft tissue, tenderness, and swelling. Many patients also have intense burning pain in the hands and feet. 

Many patients report that the feet are most often the focus of the pain, but others say their face and even eyes are affected. 

Primary Erythromelalgia

This type of EM is usually related to genes but can be idiopathic, which means we don’t know the cause. Primary EM happens most often in children 10 and under, but it can affect people of any age. 

Primary EM typically has symptoms including redness, warmth, and pain in the hands and feet. This pain can be on the left or right side of the body and can be severe. However, it tends to cause the most pain in the feet. 

Secondary Erythromelalgia

This type is caused by other conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, blood disorders, nerve damage from sciatica, and autoimmune diseases. 

Secondary EM also can happen from using calcium channel blockers and antidepressants. Symptoms typically disappear when you stop taking these medications. 

How To Treat EM

EM is usually difficult to treat because everyone’s case is different. In addition, the way that treatments affect the condition varies widely among patients, and there can be a frustrating trial and error process to find what works best for you. 

If you have secondary EM, the process is to treat primary EM first, hoping that the symptoms will disappear. But treating primary EM may not affect the symptoms, so you would need to treat the EM specifically. 

Some patients find that elevating or cooling the extremities relieves the most painful symptoms. But regularly immersing the hands and feet in cold water can result in more flare ups, so your doctor should manage this treatment. 

Other treatments that may be effective include aspirin, sodium channel blockers, antidepressants to treat neuropathic pain, and anticonvulsants. 

Experts note how critical it is to communicate with your doctor to find the best ways to treat your symptoms. Working closely with your physician can help you find the best treatment options for your case quickly. 

EM Triggers

If you have EM, an essential part of your treatment is determining what triggers your symptoms. For example, many patients have symptoms when they exercise, warm tight shoes or warm socks, or walk into a warm room. 

Also, patients report symptoms when they drink alcohol or eat spicy foods. 

As science and medical care advance, we learn more about EM and how to treat and manage it. Remember that you also can make progress when you talk to a mental health professional about how to manage the mental and emotional aspects of the disorder. There is hope for everyone who has erythromelalgia, so talk to your doctor today about managing your symptoms.