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.