My summer of itchy bumps

I have been plagued this summer with itchy bumps that I got as the result of a photo allergic drug reaction. I have been itchy for two months now. Two months! I’ve been itchy so long that my daily battle against it has become a way of life. I have cut my fingernails down as short as humanly possible. I routinely take baths in oatmeal. And I expect to be awakened at least once a night by itchiness that I deal with by applying a steroid cream, or ice.

This all began because of a medication I was taking. Although there was a notice on the side of the bottle informing me to avoid strong or prolonged sunlight, this wasn’t a problem. I’d begun taking this medication in November - at the beginning of a Michigan winter. There was not much danger that I’d be exposed to prolonged sunlight.

I also didn’t have any problems when we went to the Bahamas in February. I used plenty of sunscreen and sat in the shade as often as I could on that trip, not because of the admonition on the side of my medicine bottle - I’d forgotten all about that – but just because I didn’t want to burn.

I normally apply sunscreen whenever I’m in the sun. On June 4th I applied some to my face and arms before attending an outdoor event. We were only outside for a few hours, but it was a blazing hot day. On the way home I noticed a crop of itchy bumps on my forearm. They itched like crazy and I scratched the hell out of them, assuming they would clear up in a few days.

But they didn't clear up and didn't stop itching, they got worse and worse as the days went on. And I kept scratching. I scratched until there was a hideous, red, irritated mess all over my forearm. And then I got it on my other arm, too. This second patch appeared because of the sun shining on my arm while I was driving!

I finally remembered the warning on the medicine bottle and visited my dermatologist who confirmed that I was suffering a photo allergic reaction to the drug. He gave me a steroid cream for the itch and sent me to my doctor to get my medication changed.

I went off the drug, onto a new one that doesn’t cause problems in the sun, and applied the steroid cream religiously, but the itchy bumps didn’t go away. They spread. First to my knees, then to the back of my legs, my hands, and then to a place where the sun never shines: my butt.

I returned to the dermatologist and he took a biopsy. He cut a bit of bumpy skin off my leg, and also sent me to get a blood test, but they showed nothing unusual. He said it was an “id,” an idiopathic condition, which means he doesn’t know what the hell it is. He talked around in circles trying to explain how this was all a result of the drug induced allergy, but honestly I think he was stumped.

I’ve spent a lot of time looking at photos of dermatological conditions on my computer recently, and what I have is definitely not contact dermatitis, shingles, scabies, hives, poison oak, or bed bugs.

It’s a crazy thing. The bumps are tiny. You’d hardly notice them if it wasn’t for the itch. But they itch like mad and when you scratch them they turn into welts.

I'll just get one patch of bumps cleared up when another patch appears somewhere else. The trick is to not scratch. But it’s practically an involuntary thing. And it feels SO good.

When I do give in and scratch I feel like a junkie back on the stuff. I know it’s bad for me. I know I’m a pitiful excuse of a human being with no self-control, but it feels SO DAMN GOOD I can’t resist. I moan with the pleasure of a satisfied urge.

My dermatologist suggested antihistamines, but they don’t help at all. The only things that stop the itch are the steroid cream, the oatmeal baths, and cold. The itch will stop if I put an ice pack on it, at least for a little while, but I want my life back! The life where I'm not ruled by the state of my itchiness.

I have to believe this will clear up. After moving around to every place on my body I have to believe the itchy bumps will be done with me. I have to believe that I will never go through this again. Because I’m not sure I could go through this again.

I Googled “itchy bumps” and found a discussion group full of people who describe what I have: little bumps that itch like crazy, move around, and last a long time. They all complained of doctors who couldn’t tell them what was wrong, and of medications that haven’t helped. It was nice to know I’m one of so many, though it was a little disconcerting, too. This is a miserable, desperate group of people and I am now one of them.