Life’s an itch

This is not a pleasant post, far from mouthwatering, streaked as it is with pus, scabs and blood. If you’re looking for pixie dust and gummy bears, you’re way off, and I suggest you head to, oh, cutecatvideos.net or marthastewart.com. Giddiness awaits.

You know what eczema is? It’s not heavenly and I’ve got it hellishly. Not rampantly, but not mere diaper-rash dapples either. Mine’s mid-grade, enough for me to finally visit a dermatologist and to repeatedly try to saw my legs off with a cheese knife. The vile rashes are largely confined to my legs, with the random breakout on my arms and hands. Scaly fingers — the best!

Unsightly if not quite repulsive, the fleshly malady — “in which patches of skin become rough and inflamed, with blisters that cause itching and bleeding” (thank you, Webster, for that subtle description) — resembles a mild poison ivy rash. And it itches with fury and hellfire.

The condition is nothing new to me; I’m just electing to whine about it now, here, for your delectation. I’ve endured eczema eruptions sporadically since my wee years, when my parents slipped socks over my hands at bedtime so I wouldn’t rip open my flesh and bleed all over my “Star Wars” sheets while sleeping. 

I only bring it up because this bout is strange and strangely intense. Without dwelling on the oozy, crusty details, I’ll just say it’s a spectacular nuisance, keeping me up nights with feline scratching frenzies and poorly lit attempts to slather lotion over the seething inflammations, like putting out a blaze. Additionally, I’m ruining pairs of summer shorts, some of which have become polka-dotted with rude little blood stains. (Spray ’n Wash has some splaining to do.) 

I never dreamed I’d seek professional treatment for simple eczema. For months I’ve stubbornly tried to master the misery with over-the-counter remedies whose healing powers have proven distinctly underwhelming. There’s the Gold Bond Eczema Relief lotion and some wimpy 1% hydrocortisone creams — both mighty letdowns. The proof is in the ragged tissue under my fingernails.  

Nearly everyone, on the web and in person (including my new dermatologist), recommended I take an antihistamine for the itching, namely Benadryl. So I did. A lot. The other night, over the course of several hours, I popped eight Benadryls, a feat that might get me into the Guinness Book of World Records, or at least a spot on “Jackass.” Benadryl is a well known sedative, too, and most people I know plunge into a coma if they take more than one. But I am, alas, immune to the soporific powers of this allergy curative. A stiff Scotch will have to do.

Sometimes the big guns must be marshaled. The dermatologist meeting was quick and to the point. Besides urging me to take antihistamines, the doctor prescribed Betamethasone Dipropionate cream, described as a “strong corticosteroid,” which means, I hope, that it contains healing superpowers of uncommon righteousness. Corticosteroids come with myriad side effect warnings, from acne to glaucoma, but I’m going for it. Besides, I don’t think I’ll get acne or glaucoma on my legs.

Occasionally caused by allergic irritations, eczema mostly attacks for no good reason. As a little kid, chocolate triggered my eczema, so I had to eat that entirely lame chocolate substitute, carob. (By around 9, though, I was all about M&Ms and Reese’s. Hence a new affliction: cavities.) 

Here’s something. Last night was my first go with the powerhouse corticosteroid. I applied it as directed and went to bed. Around 4 a.m. I awoke with both hands clawing the treated regions. Itchy as ever, I took some Benadryl (for a total of seven that night), hoping it would blunt the pain and knock me out. Mission: failed. I was up all night, writhing. 

Still, I will keep at it, slathering white cream on red rashes, seeking a miracle. This is a process, it will take time, and I’m just scratching the surface.

6 thoughts on “Life’s an itch

  1. Hope it kicks in and starts to work soon & you get some relief. Personally, I get loopy on Benadryl, but agree usually it’s the one recommended for itching or reactions. Agree, stress can exacerbate something like this. To note though, my aunty/one of my mom’s besties — had a lot of bad bouts similar to what you are describing and finally went in for allergen testing. Turned out she was allergic to a common filler compound she was ingesting–found in everything from Tylenol to all kinds of cosmetics/lotions. Just something to consider.

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  2. Oh, my god. Maybe I need the allergen testing. I did it as a child and discovered I was allergic to pollen, some animal furs, etc. But that was then. Thanks, Dena. That’s excellent food for thought.

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  3. Owwww! So sorry to read this. My roomie in Florida for 9 years had eczema too. And about 3 years ago she had an outbreak she spent almost 2 years getting under control. It is a mother to control once it breaks the bounds of normal. It was the worst on her hands, and after months of sleuthing through her lotions, soaps, cleansers etc., it turned out she was allergic to the rubber on her steering wheel. What?? I know, right? She got a cover for it and that helped keep it under control. But she still suffers from outbreaks.
    I got allergy shots in Austin a few years ago and was allergic to all 40 grasses, trees, pollen and molds I was tested for. Such a cheery finding.
    These mortal bodies we’re forced to make due with on planet Earth leave a few things to be desired. Send mine back for regrooving, please.
    I hope by now the itching is a bit better. You could undoubtedly use some sleep.
    Anne

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    1. The dermatologist’s Magic Cortisone Cream actually worked! Six days in and the patches of evil scabby skin are 99% vanished and the itching is 99% snuffed. I can sleep! I just hope it lasts. He gave me tons of the stuff, so I have back-up. The steering wheel story is whack. I don’t think I’ll ever know what causes mine, because it pops up so sporadically and so differently. I think I’m allergic to Life. “Send mine back for regrooving” indeed! Thanks for the well wishes, Anne. Right back at you, as always.

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  4. Bring on the pus and scabs! I still think I missed my true calling by not becoming a dermatologist – I watch so many dermatology TV shows that I can instantly diagnose most skin conditions on sight. Your eczema sounds brutal, and I hope you find some relief! I’ve been spared eczema, but I do have psoriasis that flares up every now and again. It used to be really horrendous on my scalp and neck, but now it’s pretty mild, with just a small patch right behind my ear that’s only popped up within the last six months and keeps coming back. At least it doesn’t feel like much of anything, it just looks a bit gross.

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  5. I’m happy to report that the crazy uber-cream the dermatologist prescribed me last week (for cheap!) is doing the job excellently. The red, inflamed islands of eczema are all but vanished, and the itching is miraculously muted — I have nary an urge to scratch anymore. So sorry to hear about your skin misadventures and hoping they stay mild. Skin maladies rule! I have other delightful derm-related issues — maybe for another blog. Ha.

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