Almost two years ago, and quite benignly, I began to develop these mysterious rashes. I was the sensitive-skinned child with eczema and so I didn’t think much of it, chalking it up to a return of childhood skin issues and the doctor issued me some skin cream with cortisone and made sure to keep my skin hydrated with lotion while applying the cortisone mixed in, vigilantly.
Two years later, this is no longer a little problem but one that is driving me crazy and one that I’m losing sleep over, scratching myself like mad and trying to figure out what the culprit is. I’m an investigator by nature, so I am perusing the internet, revisiting old offenders: dust mites! If you didn’t have a skin or allergy problem beforehand, let me tell you, just looking at the pictures of these nasty little critters are enough to make you think you think you have one. I bought dust mite protective covers for both the mattress and the pillows, not just for me but for my husband who has also been having a weird skin issue. Checkmark that off, and I’m still itching like crazy. I go and visit the allergist, and get tested. Not too much there. Two types of dust mites, cockroaches and ragweed. She is unsure of what is causing the itch.
My rheumatologist was closest. She believed I was having some kind of heat sensitivity issue. I began investigating and did find out their urticaria had many types. So, I called up a dermatologist and sat down with her and within five minutes she lifts the veil on what may be going on, on what now has become chronic urticaria. Have I mentioned lately how much I’ve begun to loathe the word chronic in conjunction with myself? I feel like every facet of my being is chronic. My pain, my illness- I’m just Chronic Liza. But enough of the whining, the issue has been is this: Pressure urticaria and Cholinergic urticaria. In layman’s terms, you’re bloody itchy. But to give you a clinical understanding, I’ll explain it better.
Pressure urticaria: chronic inducible urticaria characterised by the appearance of weal’s and/angioedema after a pressure stimulus or more commonly, delayed pressure urticaria, after a delay of 4-6 hours.
Cholinergic urticaria (CU): is a type of hive brought up by raised body temperature. It develops when you exercise or sweat. It usually disappears on its own in a few hours. In severe cases, CU can sometimes be related to exercise-induced anaphylaxis.
My case seems to be moderate (this translates to somewhere between the worst case of poison ivy and washing with lye soap), but we’re also trying to figure out some triggers. I know heat aggravates’ s me. My clothes have been a nightmare and that is saying something coming from a woman with fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, who wears jogging pants and T-shirts. But my underwear and bras and socks hurt. They leave me itching and scratching and wishing there was a cactus nearby. It’s amazing to me that it’s not even always an immediate cause and effect type of thing. Meaning when I get dressed and put on my bra, I don’t suddenly sprout hives. But three or four hours later? I can’t get out of that thing fast enough and under the band, around my ribcage, even though the bra isn’t tight, it feels like I have a line of hives and they’re doing the itchy Cucaracha.
Other triggers in my case: possibly sun but I am thinking it’s mostly heat-related and not specifically sun (solar urticaria). I’m not even sure if that is how it works so if any of you wonderful readers have it, understand it, please shoot me a message. The other possible trigger I am concerned about is my pain medication. It’s an opiate and I am in considerable pain from my various health issues and so my dermatologist and I are waiting to cross that bridge when we get to it. She’s very understanding that I need the medication, and right now we are trying to do everything we can to reduce the itching before we have to cross that bridge. There is also stress urticaria. I don’t think stress is a trigger but I will monitor that too. And like solar urticaria, you have cold urticaria. However, I don’t think I live in a region I can test that and I usually feel better when I’m cold so I feel positive that won’t be an issue even when we move to a colder climate, but I won’t speak in absolutes because I know that can change.
The itchies have been horrid for me. If you have them too and want to share with me your itchy madness, please feel free to connect on Twitter [@fibrohippiechic] or Instagram [@lovekarmafood]. I always find it easier to go through things with people than alone, and this is one of those things that people have to kind of have to take a moment to let it sink in because it’s a little unreal. “You’re allergic to you’re sweat?” Uh..kind of? “You’re allergic to pressure on your skin?” Well, yeah..sort of. This is when you invariably, have people wanting to play tic-tac-toe on your arm. Despite the hives. People are weird. So, feel free to make contact. We can lament about the itchies together or find fun, festive ways to celebrate fall.