Ask the Doctor: My skin is falling apart!

I am a 24-year-old lady with normally fairly clear skin. Lately, I have been experiencing persistent itchiness and rashes on my arms and neck. I have since ceased using body lotion, makeup and beauty soaps. After scratching, the itchy spots open to sores that are not pretty to look at.  
Dr Rachna Pande
Dr Rachna Pande

I am a 24-year-old lady with normally fairly clear skin. Lately, I have been experiencing persistent itchiness and rashes on my arms and neck. I have since ceased using body lotion, makeup and beauty soaps. After scratching, the itchy spots open to sores that are not pretty to look at.  

The condition has made me self conscious and uneasy. How can I deal with this? I want to keep looking great because I want to get married some day.

 

Agnes, Kisementi

 

Dear Agnes,

 

Persistent itchiness and rashes anywhere on the body can be due to multiple reasons. The most common one being allergy. This can be due to the various   chemicals that are present in various skin care products. But as you say you have given up using those products, it is an unlikely culprit.  

At times allergy can be due to the material of clothes worn, mostly nylon and polyester. If you have been using this material, discard it and use pure cotton and watch if the condition improves. Some food substances, particularly the ones containing high proteins like meat products, beans, e.t.c,   also give rise to allergic reaction and rashes over the skin.  

Try skipping these substances, one at a time in your daily diet and observe the difference. There can be allergy to chemicals present in bottled juices or ready to eat fast and processed foods. You should check on your diet, if there are some processed foods, try avoiding them and watch for the skin itchiness to improve. 

Eczematous dermatitis also produces a similar problem, but here, itching is associated with multiple small blisters and sores. Another common reason is superficial fungal infections of the skin which occur due to dampness. Once started, they spread very slowly and also heal slowly.  Intermittent itching is associated with white plain spots or rashes. Bacterial infection of the skin could cause sores, redness and itching, along with pain.

Excess dryness of skin can also lead to itching and rashes, but that would be mostly generalised over the body.  Some medical conditions like diabetes or hypothyroidism (under functioning of the thyroid gland), manifest as dryness, rashes and pruritis. 

Do not get stressed over your condition because mental stress can also cause and aggravate itching and shall solve nothing.  

You should also avoid direct scratching of the skin as nails carry germs which can cause secondary bacterial infection. Use a soft napkin or tissue to rub over to relieve the itching. Anti allergy ointments containing anti histaminics (chlorphenaramine or corticosteroids among others) or astringents like calamine lotion are very soothing to apply.  This will minimise rashes.

A simple blood test can reveal if there is allergy, as eosinophils (blood cells indicating allergy) would be high. Tests can also reveal other medical problems. Regarding the skin colour, if it is naturally fair, nothing is going to alter it. After the skin rashes and itching are healed, the skin will regain its normal texture. You may also consult a dermatologist if the problem persists.

Don’t worry about marriage. True love should see your heart, not your skin.

Dr. Rachna Pande is a Specialist in Internal Medicine at Ruhengeri Hospital

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