I realized the other day that I speak ad nauseam about itching, but never have really addressed directly what I’m talking about. Many people think itching is related to hives or some other visible skin condition like psoriasis or eczema, or maybe even dry skin. But when I refer to my itch from hell, I’m talking about an itch without any apparent cause. I’m talking about what is also referred to as Pruritus.
My whole life, my legs have itched. When the weather changes, my skin gets dry and red, and itchy. And I’ve always gotten hives on my thighs after taking a hot shower, but never thought much about it. Now, after months of dealing with what I thought was a new case of histamine intolerance, I realize I’ve probably always suffered from a mild form of it. My legs react to food and hot water. When my arms newly got involved, I sat up and took notice.
But that’s also because the new itch I began to suffer on my arm was so uncomfortable I couldn’t help but think something was seriously wrong. It started as a twinge on my left bicep. I’d scratch it or rub it and that was that. But then it developed into an itch that I could not stop no matter what. It came at all times of the day and night. There was no redness, no hives. Just an itch. As the frequency of the arm itch increased, I noticed my body started to itch in several places. Some nights I’d be wide awake raking the skin on my arms and legs, a spot on my hip or multiple areas on my thighs. But that one spot on my bicep, that was a menace to my happiness!
Soon after the itching started in earnest, my left and right forearms got involved. And those were also virulent itches. Still I had no hives or reason, in my mind, for an invisible itch. So I started to research invisible itch and itching for no reason. That’s when I first saw the word Pruritus, which is just a fancy word for itch. Then I read about the myriad of diseases that can be related to Pruritus; scary stuff, like cancers and things.
I wanted to know why I was itching but mostly I wanted to be able to stop it. I tried everything! Oatmeal baths, lemon, vinegar, Vicks, cold water, ice…not all at once mind you…but nothing worked. And let me really stress something here: using cold water or ice on an invisible itch, even though a lot of sites tell you to do it, can be a mammoth mistake! The spot on my bicep, I call it a Hotspot, would itch to the core of my existence for hours after I used ice on it. I know that statement is tinged with drama, but I could have easily ripped my arm off on the two occasions I used ice. The next day my arm was red, scratched and bruised. It was after the second time I used ice that I realized how bad it was for that particular spot on my arm. I actually could understand why some people commit suicide when they have a disease like psoriasis. It was agonizing.
I was desperate to stop the itching on my arms, so the next thing I tried was Capzasin. I read that it really helps with Pruritus, so I gave it a try. Until I self-diagnosed the histamine intolerance, I carried it everywhere with me. Capzasin is a cream you can buy at drugstores to help treat arthritis and muscle pain. It’s made with capiscan, the element that makes peppers hot. When the Hotspot got angry, I’d smear it with Capzasin and let it burn away. One day I itched so badly and put so much cream on I thought I was going to literally burn my skin. I kept checking to see if I was blistering. I don’t know if you can, but I thought maybe it was possible. The pain was immense, but it still felt better than the itch. To this day, I’ve had to apply olive oil every day to help heal the damage to my skin from that cream. From the scratching and the Capsazin, my skin was scarred from scratching, leathery and brown.
Once I fell over histamine intolerance and started a food diary, I started to control the itching. It took only a day or two to understand the timing of a histamine rich food and its relationship to my itching patterns. Chocolate “lit up” the Hotpsot. Avocados made my left forearm react. Beer, vinegar, tomato sauce, or spinach made both forearms and the Hotspot angry. Hot showers makes big itchy hives on my thighs and shaving my legs made them burn and itch for hours after.
My body has done a great amount of healing in the last month. My arms have not itched since February 15th. And since taking only baths and using an electric razor, my legs have healed and look great again. But now I know, when I eat something that isn’t quite safe, my legs itch a bit, which indicates to me that I have probably always been histamine intolerant. It’s just that at the point when menopause started, it unmasked the problem and the itching rose higher up into my body and into my arms. So the lesson for me is to maintain a low histamine lifestyle.
I ate pizza last night for the first time in months. Pizza is on every high histamine food list, and it has tomato sauce. My legs itched for a moment, but the Hotspot stayed quiet, as did my arms. The legs itched just enough for me to determine I can indulge once in a while, but that I won’t be eating it on a regular basis. I am still deathly afraid of chocolate and beer. And I still haven’t tried avocado and spinach yet. Maybe soon. But in the meantime, I am three weeks without any arm itching and am feeling great.
I really feel for anyone who has histamine intolerance. I think I’ve had a milder form than many, but the idea of that Hotpot itching again terrifies me. I had some really dark moments because of that virulent little itch, but I’ll save that for another post. For now, the only thing that remains of Hotspot is it’s little yellow portrait that decorates these pages of my blog.