I am trying NOT to scratch my arms. I have a chronic condition called Brachioradial Pruritus which is fancy Doctor talk for “itchy arms”… intensely itchy, drive me crazy itchy. The itch is a prickly, burning sensation that cannot be scratched to relief. I have learnt that scratching actually makes it worse and my only relief is from applying ice.

The first time I felt this itch was the night I got a severe electric shock. I was in Mexico and cooking on a hot plate. I was thrown backwards and very traumatized from it. That night the itching began. I did not connect the two at the time, but now I wonder.

Many sources believe that Brachioradial Pruritus or simply BRP may be caused by nerve damage in the upper spine, specifically the C5-C6 vertebrae. This is where the nerves that run down the outer arm come through. Did I injure my spine when the shock threw me backwards? It is possible.

The other theory is sun damage. I live in Canada and have never been a sun worshiper, I have very fair skin and burn easily so I always take precautions. I have only recently started going south in the winter and take great care not to get burned. If this theory is correct,  I wonder why only the arms are affected and not my face or legs since, when I am in the sun, I am usually wearing shorts or a bathing suit. But I guess, given my fair skin and the fact that I have started to travel, it is possible.

Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.

My regular Doctor at first thought I had Scabies. I had just returned from Mexico where the itching began. We treated my poor body for these ugly bugs and nothing changed, in fact I was desperate and showered and scrubbed myself again with the anti-scabies treatment. Thinking I was covered in bugs, I washed every article of clothing, every sheet and towel in hot water trying to eliminate the creepy mites. When nothing changed I was glad I didn’t have scabies but, in retrospect, I wish the cure was that simple.

I went to the internet. (Isn’t Google great?)  I typed in “Itchy arms” and found out about BRP. Armed with this info, I informed my Doc, who had never heard of it. He Checked into it and referred me to a dermatologist who simply confirmed my diagnosis and said there is nothing he could do and offered suggestions for creams. Cortisone cream offers some relief but is bad for my skin so I won’t use it.

Whatever the cause, I want a cure. not just a band-aid!

This is what I have tried so far and how I am trying to cope:

  • I use ice-packs to calm the itch. Cold is the most effective relief.
  • I see my GP regularly. All he can do is give me drugs to numb the itch. I take Hydroxyzine 25 mg a few times a week. He advised against using the drug every night.
  • I have seen a dermatologist who confirmed that I have Brachioradial Pruritus and that there is nothing he can do.
  • I have been to a chiropractor who brought me some short term, temporary relief.
  • I have seen a Naturopath who suggested Shea butter, which is great for moisturizing, I guess, but rather greasy. It didn’t affect the itching.
  • Creams feel good going on because I am rubbing my arms and for me, I have found that Aveeno Eczema Care for babies works best.
  • I am trying to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.
  • I complain and whine… but it does not change a thing.

I have to constantly remind myself that this is not life-threatening or contagious.   I remind myself that things could be worse, much worse.

That my love is bravery

Yet, I can’t think about how lucky I am when I am up at 3 am, tired and alone in the dark and intensely itchy. With only bad late-night TV shows for company, I am often crying as I shiver with cold packs on my arms. I am desperate for relief and feel like ripping the skin from my arms. Anxiety mounts and the tears flow as I move the cold pack from one itchy spot to another for hours on end. I can’t help but think of the people who have suffered for 5 years, or 10 years and sometimes more. These thoughts really scare me.

If you suffer, or have any ideas to help me, please tell me. I would love to hear your story.

Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.