July 19, 2007

Diagnosis Determined

The summer before I went to Nepal and met C, I worked at a nursery in my hometown. The pay was okay, the hours were good and it let me play in the dirt with flowers/trees all day. I also dated the owner's son but that's another story (*pausing for a brief second to think back*).

When I worked for Dale I started to get these horrible little spots on my hands. It wasn't a rash per se because the bumps weren't red, they were clear. The easiest way to describe them is that they remind me of tiny little blisters. They'd show up all over my hands and itch like the dickens. When they would break open they'd be filled with liquid, similar to a blister. My first thought was that something that I worked with had irritated my skin, causing the condition. I saw my family doctor for them and he diagnosed it as contact dermatitis. He told me to start wearing gloves at work, to watch coming in contact with certain plants and to be extra careful when working with the fertilizers/herbicides/insecticides. It was weird though because we couldn't figure out exactly what was triggering the outbreaks.

Over the last 9 years the bumps have come and gone. I found that they got worse when I was stressed or sick. The scientist in me figured it was due to a compromised immune system and blew it off. When KT was born my hands broke out horribly and it's been pretty constant. Just before my mom visited a month ago I had a major flare, the worst one to date. The blisters manifested themselves into scaly, rough patches of skin instead of just disappearing. Unfortunately the quickest I could get in to see a dermatologist was yesterday. Almost 5 weeks after the onset.

Thankfully, the dermatologist I saw yesterday knew exactly what the problem is. Come to find out I have dyshidrotic eczema. The good news is I finally have a diagnosis. It's a skin condition that affects about 20 people out of every 100,000 characterized by small blisters on the hands and feet. Bad news is that it's not preventable but instead something I'll always have to deal with. I can use corticosteroid creams and antihistamines to help with the flares but most times the cause itself can't be pinpointed. Other piece of bad news is that one of the worse things for it is contact with soap and water.

As a mom of an infant, that part is the hardest to handle. It's not like I can just quit washing my hands. I figure, on average I probably wash my hands AT LEAST 20 times a day now. Be tween using the bathroom, changing diapers, fishing stuff out of KT's mouth and making meals I always have a need to wash my hands. The dermatologist recommend switching to a gentle hand cleanser, instead of soap. Preferably a type that doesn't need water for us. He sent me home with some samples, a script for a steroid cream and instructions to come back in a month.

So there was plenty of good and bad associated with the diagnosis. I'm so glad to finally know what's going on. But yet it's difficult when something so routine such as washing your hands needs to be changed.

And to thwart the suggestion -- wearing gloves when washing dishes, making dinner, changing diapers, etc. is completely out. That's a common irritant as well.


Jessica said...

Ick...well, I'm glad that they finally figured out what it was, and now you can maintain the flare-ups. I also have eczema (not the same kind obviously), but my dermatologist told me the same thing....don't use soap in the areas, and don't use lotions or anything with fragrances. Hence my need to use the Aveeno line of products.

Hopefully KT won't follow in your footsteps with this (sorry to bring this up). Dylan is already following in mine with the eczema unfortunately.

I hope things get better. Hopefully the streroids help.

Megan said...

I've got it too!!! I was just diagnosed at the age of 27. I would have thought that this would have manifested itself earlier. Sadly, I'm a nurse and NOT washing hands is simply not an option. I find that the hand sanitizers make it much worse. I exclusively use vinyl or nitrile gloves at work. I use them for housework/dishwashing to cut down on my water exposure. Also, I found that the Cetaphil Hand Cream (with a purple top) works quite well to ward off flare-ups when my hands are drying out. And when that doesn't work to prevent flares, a shot of Cortisone in the butt and topical steroids does the trick to stop the itching. Hope this helps!

Mandy said...

Megan ~ I was told to avoid hand sanitizers, dish soap, household cleaners, etc. as much as possible. The dermatologist recommended that I switch from using hand soap to a gentle hand cleanser like Cetaphil or CeraVe and to use a hand cream like Cetaphil. Not washing my hands isn't an option either. I'm just trying to figure out how to do it "better". Do the vinyl or nitrile gloves seem to help? When I worked in the lab gloves irritated my hands horribly so I rarely used them but we mainly had latex.

Marz said...

wow! you know I have these off & on too. I just got them not too long and they were just on my thumb down to my wrist, like a perfect line. Itched like the dickens & once they went away they left a dry patch of skin that lasted almost 2 months. Once that went away I got another break out but much smaller this time. This time i used some cortisone cream & they went away without any dry skin behind. I didn't think nothing of it till your post today. Wow.
Glad you finally got diagnosed.

Danielle said...

wow, my boyfriend has this, too, and it mystified me until I took on a massive Google search and found some pics.

To manage his break outs (he gets them on hands AND feet, which can get quite painful), he uses Gold Bond lotion, which contains dimethicone.

In researching the condition, I found out that dimethicone protects the skin from whatever allergens it may be reacting to (and to which you might be most sensitive during times of stress or illness).

He also uses the Miracle of Aloe line for the same reason, but also for its anti-fungal properties. Bed , Bath and Beyond carries that line.

And, of course, Cetaphil is amazing and spectacularly gentle.