Vibratory Urticaria

Vibratory urticaria is a condition where repetitive movement, stretching, vibration, or other stimulus can cause itching, redness, and edema (swelling) in the stimulated skin or or other body barrier.

Simple actions such as running, exercising, car rides, holding a hand massager, and even vacuuming can set off a reaction in susceptible people. If the stimulus is prolonged or affects large areas of the body, the histamine can cause body-wide effects and even mental effects due to large amounts of histamine and other inflammatory chemicals released into the bloodstream. Histamine is a neurotransmitter, and when present in large amounts can enter the nervous system and cause psychological effects. (I plan to write articles in the future about patients with these psychological effects of histamine.)

Vibratory urticaria is usually an inherited disorder, and if you have the gene, likely one of your parents had it, and statistically half your children will have it as well. Roughly one in 200 people have the genetics for vibratory urticaria. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it! As is the case with most genetic and inherited conditions and predispositions, you can do things to address mast cell hyper-reactivity (also known as mast cell activation disorder).

To put it simply, what’s happening is that your mast cells are being stimulated to release histamine and other inflammatory substances way too easily. This happens because the stimulatory proteins on your mast cells aren’t “adhesive” enough to each other, and cause the mast cells to be hypersensitive and to release histamine and other inflammatory mediators leading to itchiness and swelling.

One possible approach to overactive mast cells (and, by extension, vibratory urticaria) is increasing your quercetin intake. Quercetin has been shown to “stabilize” mast cells, leading to greater tolerance of skin for potentially irritating stimuli, as in vibratory urticaria. Quercetin is a flavonoid found naturally in foods such as nuts and vegetables. It is also available as a dietary supplement. When intake of quercetin is adequate and sustained, you may find that your histamine reactions are less powerful, less easily provoked, and may even sometimes be prevented altogether. Thus, a diet high in healthy fruits and vegetables may help reduce vibratory urticaria.

There are other methods of stabilizing mast cells.This is a topic I’d like to write about in the future because it’s such a common problem, but quercetin seems to be the biggest hitter and easiest to implement, especially through supplementation.

I doubt that quercetin has been studied specifically in vibratory urticaria. However, quercetin is a safe, natural antioxidant that is associated with many health benefits, and most likely worth a try.

If you have vibratory urticaria and decide to try quercetin to minimize your reactivity, please let me know how it goes in the comments below. Come to think of it, comment below even if just to let me know you’re going to try it! Perhaps enough anecdotal reports will prompt formal scientific investigations into this and other health questions.