Tuesday, October 8, 2013

An Itch I Shouldn't Scratch

I recently discovered I have a condition called Brachioradial Pruritus.  Don’t be alarmed it’s nothing serious.  In fact I thought I was completely crazy for a couple years.  Well, I still probably am, but I mean about this.  Here’s what happened. 

For the past 3 years at the end of every summer-somewhere around the middle to end of August-my arms would start to get incredibly itchy.  I mean REALLY itchy.  I had no visible rash and the only thing that would make them feel better was running them under cold water.  The itch would come and go, but it was worse at night.  Scratching does nothing but exacerbate it.  Think Chicken Pox without the pox. 

I went to the dermatologist last year about it and she told me it was probably just dry skin and to put on Cetaphil cream.  I did this, but it didn’t make the itch go away.  The only thing that did was time.  By the end of October beginning of November, when the weather would cool and my arms were no longer tanned, the itch would stop.  Then I would forget about it, until the next August when the intense itch would come back.  

It is not fun and completely annoying.  Especially because I have no visible rash so people, like my husband, think I’m completely crazy or have made  this thing up in my head.  I have scratched my arms to the point of looking like a Meth addict because I  make wounds and spots that scab over on my arms.  It’s so pretty.  So this year when it started happening again, I became extremely frustrated.  There was no reason for this to be happening.  I mean sure I had spent all summer in the sun, but I had used sunblock, so what the hell?  My arms weren't THAT dry.  They were tan, but not itchy skin dry.  

Then I remembered that the Internet knows all.  I have gotten myself in trouble for self diagnosing before, but I tried the going to the Doctor route about this and they were less than helpful.  Plus it costs money to go there to have them tell me again, “your arms are dry, here is some cream”.  So instead I used Dr. Google and looky what I found!

I matched EVERY symptom on this list.  It was crazy, and the good news is, I wasn’t!  I actually have a real thing.  I will spare you from going and reading everything about it if you don’t want to.  It boils down to this; I have an impingement somewhere on my spine.  Nothing serious, could be as simple as “a slight bulge of a disk, calcium spurs coming of the vertebrae, or other spinal changes that accompany aging.”  Lovely-aging.  Anyway-the impingement sends a message to my brain that my arms are itchy, but there really is no reason for them to be itchy, like when you have a rash, poison ivy etc.  Sun damage brings on the itchiness.  Hence the reason it starts at the end of August for me after I’ve spent all summer by the pool and at the beach.  Granted I wear sunblock, but apparently I need zinc sunblock to completely protect myself.  Or long sleeves.  Not really a fun idea living  in Southern California in July.  Once the weather cools down and I’m not in the sun and I DO wear long sleeves, it gets better and eventually goes away.  

No, there is no real cure, only treatments. Those consist of trying to repair the sun damage with creams, putting ice packs on my arms when they get really itchy, and using anti itch creams with menthol.  These all work for a time, but don’t make it go away and for whatever reason I usually wake up at 3 in the morning scratching the skin off my arms again.  It sucks.  

Because of this, the girls now know I shouldn't be scratching my arms, so they have been scolding me when they see it happening.  It actually kinda helps me be more aware of it and try to go for one of the treatments instead of scratching.  

Then the other day in the car Georgia kicked it up a notch.  We were on our way back from Costco and it had been a particularly hot and dry day.  (Yay fall in Los Angeles.)  My arm was in the sun and it was starting to get the prickly itchy feeling, because being hot and in the sun brings it on more now.  I started to scratch and she said,


"I know, Georgia," I said.  "But my arm is just SO itchy!"

"Den justh go like disth," she told me.  Then she rubbed the palm of her hand over her arm.  Something I have done from time to time to not use my nails and actually scratch.  It helps a bit. 

"I will try!" I promised her. 

Then she really threatened me, "If you don't sthop sthcratching, you are going to get a punishment."

"Oh really?" I asked.  "What kind of punishment."

"Ummm..." She thought for a minute then all of a sudden came up with a good one.  "You can not have wine for TEN months!"

Damn ten months! Well, that would be quite the punishment.  But I'm not sure if I should be more concerned with the fact that my 5 year old is reprimanding me or that she's using my drinking wine to do it.  It did get me to stop scratching for the moment though. 

So when next summer rolls around, don't mind me.  I will be the girl wearing her winter parka with bikini bottoms.  

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