Monday, December 9, 2013

The Mystery Itch

About 4 weeks after my last chemo I developed an itchy leg.  I assumed it was dry skin, slathered lotion on, and mostly forgot about it.  The itch got worse and then moved to the other leg.  It was a dee, intense itch that couldn't be satisfied.  I scratched so hard I had bruises all over my legs and eventually broke the skin and bled.  No amount of lotion seemed to help.

And then it moved to my stomach and chest and I thought I was going to lose my mind.  The oncology nurses said to try Benadryl (both oral and topical), Cortizone cream, and cold compresses.  Nothing really seemed to help.  My oncologist said it could be stress related (people who are in remission are often stressed about recurrence - I'm no exception) and had me start taking Zyrtec (an antihistamine) and give it another week or so.  Still no relief.

It's been about a month and a half since the itching started.  I'm all bruised up and the itching has been keeping me up at night.  I literally got about 3 hours of sleep last night it was so bad.  My oncologist recommended I see a dermatologist.  I couldn't find a dermatologist in the city that could see me in less than 4 weeks, so I made an appointment with my General Practitioner.

I saw my GP today and she's not really sure what's going on either.  She thinks it's likely severe dry skin that's gotten worse due to chemo and the cold, dry winter air.  She ordered blood work to test my thyroid and liver enzyme levels.  There's a super slim chance there could be a problem with my liver (which causes itchy skin), but she says it's unlikely.  Theoretically I could have liver damage due to the plethora of drugs I've taken lately (pain killers in particular can be hard on your liver).  Again, it's unlikely but she's testing it just to rule it out.  I already have an under active thyroid which I take medication for.  An under active thyroid can cause dry skin, so if my dose is too low on my current medication it could make my skin even more dry.  So she's testing that too to see if we need to adjust my dose.

She recommended a hard core skin cream called Cetaphyl.  It comes in a tub and is really thick.  I used it earlier and I really like the way it feels - it's nice and thick and soothing, but not too greasy.  She says to slather that on at least once a day and see how that does.

Blood work will be back in a couple of days.  If it doesn't give us any answers, the doc is going to have her nurse call a dermatologist directly and try to squeeze me in as soon as possible.

In the mean time, I've been prescribed Atarax, which is an antihistamine that's often prescribed for itching.  It's also a sedative, so it'll help me sleep too :)

So that's where we're at with the mystery itch.  Hopefully it is just dry skin and I can get it under control soon because it's really driving me crazy!


1 comment:

  1. Melisa, try wearing socks or gloves on your hands to bed. That way you can scratch to your heart's content as you sleep, and you won't do any damage. Also sunlight can really help... know anyone with a sun lamp? Besides, you'll get tons of sun in a week! Itching can make you loose your mind.... so hang in there, honey, and try not to worry, the docs will figure it out.
    Love you, Mamma P