Tan To Fight Fibromyalgia?

February 22, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
It impacts up to six million people in the United States, mainly women who can't get through the day without pain shooting through their bodies. There are very few effective treatments for fibromyalgia, so one doctor decided to try a controversial method to treat his patients. He says it works. Other dermatologists say it's dangerous.A constant, aching pain put Laura Hemrick's body and brain in slow motion.

"I see people, and I think, 'I've known you all my life, but I don't remember your name," Laura Hemrick explains to Ivanhoe.

After more than 15 tests and six months of doctors appointments, she found out she had fibromyalgia, a chronic condition that causes widespread pain, fatigue and fogginess. Exercise provides some relief, but the drugs made her sick.

"I would deal with the pain before I go back to those again," Hemrick said.

Then, a dermatologist recommended something new: spend time tanning!

"If I were to give a lecture to my dermatology colleagues about this almost certainly some would find some tomatoes to throw at me," Steven Feldman, M.D., Ph.D. a dermatologist practicing at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Dr. Feldman led a study that found fibromyalgia patients who were exposed to UV rays in a tanning bed over six weeks felt a decrease in pain compared to those who were in non-UV beds. He says the UV rays cause the skin to release endorphins, feel-good molecules that ease pain and increase relaxation. Other dermatologists say young people who use tanning beds have a 75-percent higher risk for melanoma

"Just once using the tanning bed will give you enough DNA damage to increase your chance of skin cancer," Shasa Hu, M.D., a dermatologist at the University Of Miami School Of Medicine warns.

Laura says, so far, tanning is the only thing that provides relief.

"Nothing is completely free of any possible risk," Dr. Feldman said.

She's taking the risk because she says the alternative is to live in pain.

Laura spent 12 to 15 minutes, three times a week in a tanning booth to ease the pain. Dr. Feldman says UV tanning beds have also been helpful in easing psoriasis. He would not recommend them for anyone who doesn't have these conditions. The idea for this started during a tanning addiction study when doctors realized patients were repeatedly going to tanning beds to ease aching backs.

Ann Hopkins, Public Relations Manager
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Winston-Salem, NC
(336) 716-1280