Brachioradial Pruritus (Itchy Arms): What Causes It and How Can You Treat It?

Itchy arms is a common problem. When itching is limited to your forearms and relieved only by applying ice, then we often call it brachioradial pruritus. Brachioradial is the muscle just underneath the itching area and pruritus is the smarty-pants word for itching. In this video I’ll give two possible causes and tips on how to treat this terribly itchy condition.

What Causes Eczema?

Eczema is a common skin disorder in children. It’s caused by an over-active immune system and damaged skin. The damaged skin allows for bacteria and other irritants to enter the skin. This leads to more inflammation and worsening of the eczema. Scratching only damages the skin making it easier for bacteria to penetrate. Here’s a short video that explains what causes eczema.

Can You Be Allergic To Your Swimming Pool?

Is is possible to be allergic to your pool?

Allergic to Swimming?

We’re in the dog days of August and summer continues to hold on. What better way is there to relax than in your nice, cool pool? Unless you’re allergic to it, of course.

I had a patient this summer who developed an itchy rash all over. He thought it might be due to his pool, but insisted that he kept it immaculately clean. Ironically, that might have been the trouble.

Some people are allergic to the shocking agent used for pools and hot tubs. Potassium peroxymonosulfate or PPMS is an oxidizing agent used to keep pools clean. A study showed that skin allergies to this chemical aren’t uncommon and that it tends to afflict men more than women.

As with my patient, treating the allergic reaction with topical steroids and changing the pool’s shocking agent can help. At least he wasn’t allergic to water.

Photo: Omar Edwardo

Why Do Sunburns Itch?

Have you ever had a sunburn? First it hurts. Then it itches. And itches. And itches.

Why is that?

Sunburn is caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation damage to your skin. Too much UV damages your skin cell’s DNA, and your immune system responds by killing off the bad cells. Because UV radiation doesn’t penetrate (unlike X-rays for example), it damages only the surface layer of your skin. This outermost layer happens to be loaded with special nerve fibers called C-fibers which are responsible for itch.

Itch is a mechanism to protect us against insects and other minor injuries that aren’t significant enough to register as pain. It’s our skin’s way of saying; “Hey, there’s a bug on us, get it off!” Because the damage from sunburns happens in this same surface layer, these C-fiber nerves fire furiously until the skin is healed.

Here’s how to soothe sunburn itch:

  • Try a soothing lotion such as Eucerin Calming Lotion. You can even keep it in the refrigerator for a few hours before applying it for cool, soothing relief.
  • Lukewarm baths with colloidal oatmeal can also sooth and heal sunburned skin.
  • Many people also like aloe for its anti-inflammatory and soothing properties.
  • Avoid topical numbing sprays with “cane” in them. Allergies to these topical anesthetics is common, and the last thing you need is to add a raging allergic dermatitis to an already itchy sunburn — it’s an itch of Biblical proportion.

Photo: Kelly Sue, Flickr

Heat Rash

I just flew back from Atlanta for the 4th of July weekend, and, boy, are my sweat glands killing me.

Atlanta has a way of making your sweat glands work overtime, and overworked sweat glands can lead to dreaded heat rash. Heat rash is a common, annoying problem in summertime that develops when sweat glands are blocked, thereby preventing sweat from escaping and irritating your skin.

Hot skin trapped under clothing is often affected, leading to red itchy or prickly bumps (hence it’s other name, prickly heat). Humid heat is worse than dry heat, and anything that blocks the sweat ducts such as lying on your back at night, wearing tight fitting clothing or even applying thick sunscreen is a sure way to bring the rash out.

Prickly heat is commonly seen in babies who aren’t able to tell us when they’re hot and sweaty from being overly bundled up. Hospital patients who are unable to move in bed are also commonly afflicted. Of course, healthy adults can get it too, especially during the dog days of summer.

The best treatment is to get cool. A cool shower, cranking the airconditioning, or taking a dip in the pool will stop the sweating and allow the sweat glands to recover. Sometimes a mild topical steroid such as cortisone cream is needed to calm the inflammation.

Or you can fly to San Diego where the temperature will top out at 72 degrees next week.

Is Hard Water Causing Your Rash?

Does Water Hardness Affect Skin?

Hard water is tap water that’s high in minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Hard water isn’t harmful, except the minerals prevent your soap from sudsing. Some people think that hard water is more likely to cause a rash than soft water.

Take a recent patient of mine: he moved his family to San Diego from the East Coast (good move this winter, no). After they moved here, they noticed their skin became dry and itchy. He blamed San Diego’s notoriously hard water and installed a water softener in the main water line. It was costly, but did it improve their skin?

A recent study from the UK looked at this question: Does hard water worsen eczema? The answer was, no, it doesn’t. Water hardness did not seem to have any impact on eczema, the most common skin rash.

What’s more important than the hardness of the water is the type of soap you use. True soap tends to strip the skin of its natural oils, leaving it exposed and irritated. Non-soap cleansers, of which Dove is the prototype, leave more oils on your skin, keeping it hydrated and protected.

My patient and his family didn’t get any better after installing a water softener (although he said they could drink our tap water without gagging now). I advised him to change to a moisturizing soap and to apply moisturizer daily.

San Diego is drier than most of the country, and the low humidity can be a shock to skin accustomed to humid air. Many people who move here find they have to moisturize more often than they did back home.  When they complain, I suggest they could alternatively move back to the East Coast this winter — no takers so far.

Photo: Angel Gonzalez, Flickr.

Itchy bottom? Moist Toilet Tissues Can Cause A Rash

Itchy butts are part of my everyday. It shouldn’t be part of yours.

Itching on your bottom is usually a minor annoyance, but it can be debilitating. A patient of mine was unable to work because his derrière itching was so intense. A common cause of itching bottom, called pruritus ani, is allergic contact dermatitis.

Places where your skin transitions from outside to inside, such as lips or anus, are susceptible to dermatitis because your skin’s barrier is limited in these locations. Without a thick layer of keratin, irritants on the outside easily get into your skin. Moist toilet tissues, such as baby wipes or towelettes, might seem to get you cleaner than old-fashioned toilet paper, but chemicals in the wipes cause a rash in some people.

Preservatives such as methylchloroisothiazolinone/methylisothiazolinone (MCI/MI) or kathon CG are often used in packaged toilet wipes and are a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis. Many patients who have itching on their behinds fear that they are unclean, use more cleaning wipes, worsening their dermatitis. It becomes a vicious cycle. Avoiding all commercial wipes or towelettes usually resolves the rash and itching. If not, then see your dermatologist before you find yourself on extended medical leave.

Have you ever had an itch so bad that you thought you’d go mad?

Photo: RLHyde