Too Many Itches To Scratch

Some years ago, I wrote about being diagnosed with the incurable skin condition, Pityriasis Rosea.

The cause is unknown, though some experts believe it is the legacy of a previous viral condition. It does go away after a while, but then it comes back when you least expect it.

In my case, I am unlucky. It is usually always present somewhere on my body, mostly on the front of my chest, or along the line of the spine in my back. It can become red and raised, and is always terribly itchy. For years now, I have taken an antihistamine tablet at least once a day, sometimes twice. That helps to control the worst of it, as well as liberal application of steroidal creams to the affected areas.

Regular readers will also know of my susceptibility to insect bites, especially mosquitioes and horseflies. I am unusually attractive to any biting insects, and spend the summer months having to use the strongest repellent sprays available, as well as wearing an impregnated wrist band that deters insects.

The sudden rise in temperatures has hit me on both levels this week. The rash has returned on my chest and back, and has also started to appear around my ankles and feet. Walking Ollie has resulted in numerous bites and stings, especially as it has been far too warm to even think about not wearing lightweight shirts and shorts.

So I have woken up this morning with an itch raging across my back and chest. Also on both ankles, and the instep of one foot. Add to that three large itchy mosqito bites on one arm, and I am more than a little agitated. The tablets and creams do not seem to be able to cope with this double-dose of irritation coursing through my body, and I am sitting typing this trying not to rub my back against a wall as I rake my chest with the sharpest fingernail I can find.

I definitely have far too many itches to scratch today.

An unwelcome visitor

I don’t often write about medical matters on this blog. Considering my age, working shifts for more than thirty years, abusing my body for decades with a bad diet, and smoking cigarettes for close to forty years, I am lucky. Other than some age-related eyesight issues, I don’t have that much wrong with me. Not yet, anyway.

However, since moving to Norfolk, I did get something, and it is most unpleasant. Pityriasis Rosea is an itchy skin condition, with no known cause. It appeared from out of the blue some years back, and affected my chest and legs. The lumpy, sometimes scaly rash is accompanied by fierce itching. The sort of itching that leaves you wanting to rip your skin off. I could be seen rubbing my back against trees on Hoe Rough to try to get a good scratch, and spent many sleepless nights scratching my chest like a demented person who believed they were covered by biting ants.

I eventually sought help from my doctor. She took one look at my ravaged chest and back, and declared, “Oh that’s the Christmas Tree Rash, Pityriasis Rosea. No cure I’m afraid, but I will give you some cream”. She explained that it is called the Christmas Tree Rash due to the chevron like formation on my back resembling the downward-pointing branches of those seasonal trees. I had to apply the steroid cream, and take anti-histamines too. She told me it might last for three months or more, and it did.

Since then, I have had regular ‘flare-ups’, and it has never really gone away from my chest, which needs to have cream applied on a daily basis to reduce the itching. Then last week, coinciding with the arrival of decent weather, I noticed a scaly patch of skin on my left thigh. It started to itch the next day, and then developed on both lower legs, around the instep. Sure enough, my back began to itch soon after, and I had to face the unpleasant reality that a full blown return was imminent. Since Thursday, it has spread to my neck, and around the back of my head, so I try to avoid people when I am out, as they must find my occasional maniacal scratching very unpleasant to see.

This morning, it woke me up early, with a raging itch all across the tops of my feet and ankles, and the distinctive ‘orange-peel’ feel to the inflamed skin. On went the cream, and provided some relief in the short term. On the plus side, it is not contagious. But that’s the only plus, I’m afraid.

If you think you might have something similar, or are interested to find out more, here is a link to the NHS page explaining what it is.
And I managed to type all this without having to stop and scratch!