I Want a Cure not a Band-Aid

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.

Be-soft-do-not-let-the-world-make-you-hard-quote-kurt-vonnegut

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.

You-wake-up-every-morning-to-fight-the-same-demons-quote

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.

perhaps-our-eyes-need-to-be-washed-by-our-tears-quote-alex-tan

Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.

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16 thoughts on “I Want a Cure not a Band-Aid

  1. Feeling sad for you, Maggie! Wish I could offer a possible solution to your discomfort, but I have no idea what to suggest. I’m a great believer in the healing properties of aloe vera for skin irritations, but it sounds like your condition is likely beyond its capability. 😦

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    • I have tried aloe vera, I do use it, it feels cool going on and that helps, but it does nothing for the itch because the itch is a nerve thing. The main time of itching is in the night. As long as I am active and moving, I don’t have any itch, its just once I settle for the evening, that’s when it starts. So life is great in the daytime.

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      • Hi Maggie, I’ve had this condition for at least 15-20 years, I’m 64. I do have pinched nerves in my neck, so I know the cause. I have my itching day and night in both arms, so I feel your pain. I just read that Lidocaine 5% patches put on arms and shoulders for 12 hours helps all night and relief carries on to the next day. I’m sure it’s by RX only? I’ll ask my doctor soon, have you ever tried this? So, my only relief is ice, but that’s difficult when I’m out and about during the day. Good luck to you.

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        • I am managing with the ice packs and often carry a cooler with me in the car. It is weird when I am out to have to use ice packs in public. I was on a plane recently and had to ask for ice, I think the young fellow next to me thought I was some weirdo…

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  2. Oh Maggie when I read this story I had tears because I know what it is like to suffer with a chronic condition. I have been left with debilitating nerve pain after some serious complications during surgery. I have only been able to manage the pain with medication and oodles of cognitive practice as well. It has been almost four years now and I am developing additional chronic issues one of them being itchy arms, my doctors are still diagnosing but BRP has been the condition they keep discussing with me. I have a referral to see a skin specialist and will know for certain if I have BRP once I see him, it may just be my medications. The itching is driving me crazy, in addition to my pain I have just about had enough, reading all your quotes posted with this story has made me adjust my thoughts again. I am not helping you out here because I haven’t a clue what to do, but my thoughts are with you and anything I learn as I go through these tests that could possibly help you I will forward on. Tears are most definitely a cleanser every now and then, I can’t understand I could have so much pain from nerve damage, and to be told I must live with it for the rest of my life is hard to swallow. I really do understand all the emotions you are experiencing from enduring a chronic condition. Chronic is not my favourite word, I will save these little quotes, they are all filled with strength, strength to you Maggie and hugs from
    Annie in Australia 🌞 🌴 🌊

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    • Oh Annie, I am so sorry. I really hope and pray that they find some other reason for the itching for you. Chronic pain is more than enough to endure. Whatever you do, don’t scratch. apparently (so I have read) constant scratching will eventually enlarge the nerve endings and make the itching worse. I don’t want to test that theory, so I use cold gel packs. they really give the best relief (I have four that I keep in the fridge not the freezer)
      I know what you mean about thinking about enduring for the rest of your life… that is such a bleak sentence… surely they will come up with a cure for all this torture we have been dealt.
      I am glad you like the quotes. I love finding quotes and putting them on my own backgrounds.
      Hugs to you.

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  3. I’m so happy to find this blog. I have suffered with this for over a year. I believe much is stress related since there was a point last summer when the symptoms had completely vanished. Once I went back to work, it got worse than ever. I take a lot of gabapentin which helps, but not always. I have scars all over my arms and have had itching on my chest And legs. i have had injections, physical therapy, and chiropractic. Nothing works for long.

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  4. So I have not officially been diagnosed with BRP…but I have diagnosed myself!! This itch is insane!! I talked to my doctor and she tried to tell me to use Allegra or anti itch cream.I knew that wouldn’t help, and it didn’t. The only thing that relieves the itch is ice!! Sometimes I wish I could just cut my arm offor at the elbow!! I only have it on my left arm from elbow to wrist..it literally drives me nuts trying not to scratch! I really wish they would find a cure!! Don’t know why or how it started, but I pray to God he takes it away!! Good luck and hopefully one day soon they will find a cure!

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  5. I came up with this idea on my own and have not seen anybody else on the internet talking about this: I keep a small refrigerated jar of 100% habanero juice (from the juicer preserved with a drop of glycerin). When the acute itching breaks out, soak a soft rag with habanero juice and rub itchy area for up to a minute to deeply penetrate the external layer of skin. It immediately stops the itch from getting worse and provides an incentive to stop scratching. Then the itch fades within 10-15 minutes and doesn’t come back for awhile. I think BRP is caused by an internal yeast infection which breaks out through the skin and habanero kills the fungus. I also started doing an internal 3 week echinacea/goldenseal cleanse every 4 months several years ago for prevention and 90% of my chronic skin problems, including BRP, cleared up. Now the BRP breakout events only occur several months after the cleanse when the yeast comes back.

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