My mom is in her early 80s. She has extremely fragile, thin skin and bruises like crazy. For about the past year, she’s also developed itchiness. Occasionally she’s had hives, but for the most part, she has no rash, just widespread itchiness which comes and goes but is a constant every day. She wakes up every night at 130 or 430 with it, and it’s off and on all day.
Thus far we have:
-eliminated all soaps, lotions, and detergents from use on her skin and clothing
-switched to all-cotton sheets
-used a number of otc and prescribed antihistamines with little to no effect
-used about a million different otc and prescribed creams with zero effect
-determined that she is not taking any new meds, etc. See note below about Bystolic.
Two weeks ago she saw an allergist and was tested for food allergies. Most of her limited diet showed a reaction during the skin test. So she’s eliminated most of her foods–milk, eggs, peanut products, canola, several other items. She also discontinued her twice-weekly aspirin. Today we discussed the possibility of a rice-and-chicken diet for a while to see if that makes a difference.
She’s still itchy. I feel so bad for her but I am out of ideas. I had her discontinue taking Bystolic (blood pressure med) for a few days…she had two great days and then the itching began again, so her doc doesn’t think it’s the Bystolic and at this point doesn’t suspect her other meds.
She recently had a lupus panel performed and has not heard results from it…I’m assuming it was negative or I think they would have called her by now.
Ideas? If we can’t get results with the allergist, what’s next? Immunologist?
Yes, I was thinking simply dry skin, too Though younger than your mother by quite some years, I had a similar problem, with the skin coming up in welts that looked like insect bites to me. My doctor reckoned it was probably a reaction in dry skin to clothing rubbing on it, around my waist and my sock tops. What seemed to work (and has done when it’s flared up again) is hydrocortisone ointment to deal with the itch, and any generic cold cream to moisturise the skin as a preventative (she recommended generic aqueous cream from the pharmacist, which is better value for money, but has a whiff of disinfectant, so I just use the cheapest generic soft cream I can find).
If she’s on any kind of prescription pain medication, you might look at the side effects. When I had surgery last year I had horrible, skin-ripping itchiness afterwards. We tried all the same things you have. It was only after the pain medication was discontinued that we connected the dots.
Man, I wrote a long post and disappeared it.
Anyway, I do think the dry skin is definitely making things worse, but we’ve tried every cream, lotion, oil, etc, that I can think of, and it hasn’t helped.
Her doctor has done blood work but all I know is that her inflammation rates are high (not usual for her, given her arthritis) and that she has a lot of allergies to trees, grasses, etc.
She was taking (very occasionally) a prescription pain med but has discontinued it along with aspirin and Tylenol.
I’m beginning to suspect the chlorine or something in her local water out or sheer desperation. Or that she is so reactive at this point that anything sets her off.
Itchiness without apparent external cause can be a symptom of something seriously going wrong with certain organs. This is a pretty thorough page from NHS direct.
Recently a friend of mine in her 40s had mystery itching, investigation found Primary biliary cirrhosis. This is not a nice disease, the good news is that it’s been caught early. Not all itching is trivial.
No, they’re still investigating. The allergist recently restricted her foods after testing for sensitivities. So far that isn’t helping, and we will see what the follow-up will be. Her general doc has recently done the lupus panel, and I’m not sure what other conditions she is looking at or considering at this point.
I’m just wondering who else we might consult, specialist-wise. Or hoping someone will say, “Hey! I had that and it turned out to be this!”.
She does take thyroid meds, having had part of her thyroid removed years ago. I’ll check to see if her levels have been evaluated. As well as the other items on the list…I think most of them have probably already been checked in her routine bloodwork, but I don’t know.
She’s seen 3 dermatologists over the last year…they are concerned about the itching, but don’t seem so concerned with the cause, if that makes sense. They’ve prescribed her creams and antihistamines, but haven’t gotten to the root of the problem. The allergist seems to be very good so far, but we’re only in the 2nd week of Mom being off her “sensitive” foods. I don’t know if I’m expecting too much, but it just seems that if she isn’t eating a trigger food, she’d be feeling some relief by now.
Poor Mom. I feel so bad for her.
Is the itchiness over her whole body or relegated to one area? Elderly people who have a weakened immune system will sometimes get shingles, I hope it’s not some precursor to an oncoming case of shingles cause that is truly an uncomfortable ordeal
How is her liver? Itchiness is a sign of jaundice, and you can have that at a low enough level that you’re not yellow toned. Blocked bile ducts would be the most reasonable cause, but there are others.
The itchiness is all over. Especially anywhere she gets hot or sweaty, which I suppose is normal for skin issues. She says it feels like a “spark” when it starts.
I’m not sure if the doctor ran a liver panel last time (recently) when they did blood work. I’ll follow up and find out.
I know this is rare, and she is a little old for it, but before I was diagnosed with Hodgkins I scratched myself until I bled trying to combat the itchiness, I know it was mentioned earlier in the thread, but I just wanted to second it.
Thank you all for the ideas and suggestions. I’m making a list and will ask her doctor to check it all out. She’s afraid that they are giving up on her…they aren’t, but it’s easy to feel that way when you’re miserable and it seems like the doctors are taking their time.
I am not sure about the cause, I’ve seen lots of itching in elderly with thin skin and all the tests I can think of are either mentioned or done already, or pending.
Our hospitalist used to order Glycerine, Eucerine Water cream cwith 0.5-1.0% hydrocortisone compounded by the pharmacist for itchy /dry skin. It worked better than anything we’d ever encountered for some of our frail elderly. Just my two cents for symptomatic treatment.