zit or is it?
May 31, 2009 1:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm getting a strange new kind of zit (or is it?)

My skin is fairly clear, but when I do get spots, they're the normal kind, small whiteheads and blackheads on my face and occasionally on my upper back. These new spots are like nothing I've ever had, and I'm worried that they might be some kind of bug bites or rash.

They're always on 'soft' parts of my skin - the side of my breast, inside of my thigh, under my arm- but never close to any kind of hair follicles so I don't think they're ingrown hairs or infected hair follicles. They're medium-to-large, sore, itchy, bright red conical bumps with a whitehead in the centre. Gross, huh?

Before you ask - I have been to the doctor. He said they're just normal pimples. They keep coming and coming, though - they're really unsightly, sore as hell, and zit cream just irritates them and makes them more red. I use a gentle exfoliant every day in the shower, and that hasn't seemed to make a difference. Aside from being on soft, relatively hairless skin, there's really no rhyme or reason to where they appear - i.e., sometimes it's a place that's always covered in clothes, sometimes not, sometimes on skin that touches other skin (inside of thighs), sometimes not. I am going back to the doctor soon to insist on a referral to a dermatologist (this is in the UK, so doing this kind of thing through the NHS can take a while) but in the meantime I'd thought I'd see if anyone else has any ideas or has experienced something similar. Spider bites (there are tons of spiders in my house)? Allergic reaction? Evil curse?
posted by Wroksie to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
That does sound unpleasant! You're already doing my top recommendation -- see a dermatologist. They can take one look at almost any skin finding and tell you what it is; way better than general practice doctors. Otherwise, I'd just keep at what you are doing: gentle cleaning with a non-irritating soap or body wash, keep things clean but not irritated. If zit cream makes them worse, stay far away from it. Given that they are itchy, you could try a small amount of a hydrocortisone cream (standard over-the-counter anti-itch cream) and see if it helps. If you recently changed detergents or fabric softeners for laundry, change back.

That's where I'd start, and hopefully if they persist a dermatologist can sort it out.

Now, if any of them get worse, like more swollen and really tender, if you get fevers, etc., get back to your doc fast in case there is something infectious going on.
posted by davidnc at 1:33 PM on May 31, 2009

There are hair follicles all over our body, even if there is no visible hair. I'd guess that it's just a zit in one of those.
posted by gjc at 1:33 PM on May 31, 2009

They could be boils. I've gotten a few of them on the groin/thigh region that were big-ish, painful, and definitely had a whitehead in the center.

If you do some googling on boils, you can find photos, as well as home treatments.

Most of the web says not to pop them, but I did pop mine and just soak up all of the ooze that came out in a tissue (clarification, I poked a tiny whole in the white head with a clean needle). It didn't make it go away, but it did make it hurt significantly less. After popping it, it was smaller and hurt less. I then put a bandage on it and it went away in a few days.

Hope it helps - and if they are boils, I'm sorry. Boils suck.
posted by firei at 1:34 PM on May 31, 2009

Yes, it does sound like boils to me. I have them from time to time, too (on my breast and my inner thighs). It is possible that you are simply prone to developing this painful little things. My guess is that it has something to do with hormones.

What works best for me when I have one is to place a hot (or at least really really warm), damp washcloth on the area for about 5 minutes. That helps with the swelling and pain. Do this 2-3 times a day until the pimple/boil/swelling/pain has subsided. I don't ever have to pop mine, the warm washcloth remedy works every time.

Hope this helps. I know those things can really hurt.
posted by shimmerstory at 1:46 PM on May 31, 2009

Are you underweight or a vegetarian?

"Although most people with boils are otherwise healthy, boils are sometimes related to immune deficiency, anemia, diabetes or iron deficiency. "

Years ago when I was underweight and anemic, this happened to me.
Like clockwork: diet bad --> get pale and spotty.
Once I improved my diet and started supplementing iron, B vitamins, and eating more protein, it cleared right up.
posted by aquafortis at 1:48 PM on May 31, 2009

Response by poster: Ah, yes, boils, I've had one or two of those, and that was the first thing that came to mind - but these seem different. They appear much more quickly, the whitehead part is there from the beginning (while with boils the whitehead seemed to take a while to develop), they're not hard like a boil, and (what the hell, this is already a disgusting question) they aren't nearly as...productive... when squeezed. That's not to say that these might not be a new and exciting sort of boil that I've never experienced before!

Definitely not underweight or a vegetarian - I have changed my diet pretty significantly lately though, I'm eating about twice as many vegetables and lots more wholegrains than I used to and pretty much no sugar.
posted by Wroksie at 1:52 PM on May 31, 2009

I get something very like these. I've talked to doctors about them, and they seem to not be alarmed by them, or even interested in them (unlike some of my more unusual skin issues... but that's another story).

Generally, I use a hot compress on them, lance them with either a pin or a scalpel blade, drain them, pack them with antibiotic cream, and bandage them. You have to actually be willing to put some of the cream down in the wound, which hurts like hell, till you get good at it, and repack and bandage it every day for about 5-6 days till it heals, but they seem to heal much faster that way.

I have found, however, if I spot them forming early (before they get red and angry) and lance them then, all they seem to contain is a very hard seed pearl like lump, and they heal within two days.
posted by strixus at 2:19 PM on May 31, 2009

What I notice is that all the places you described are subject to skin-to-skin abrasion. Classic places to be getting skin rashes and irritation, especially in hot weather.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:26 PM on May 31, 2009

I've found the best way to treat these is to do the warm compress thingy, then apply antibiotic cream and a bandaide. Re-apply the antibiotic cream and change the bandaid twice a day, and it should clear up pretty quickly. I've found that it really helps to use witchhazel on the parts that tend to break out.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:40 PM on May 31, 2009

I don't know what they are, but I recommend zinc diaper rash cream. Penaten in particular. In my family, one pets Penaten on pretty much anything, and for things like this, it actually helps.
posted by Hildegarde at 2:51 PM on May 31, 2009

corn starch to soothe chafing. Have you changed detergents? You could try a non-scented laundry detergent, and even an extra rinse cycle.
posted by theora55 at 3:33 PM on May 31, 2009

Sounds like sebaceous cysts. Basically, these kinds of cysts are just big pimples.

I'm especially prone to cysts, and I've gotten sebaceous cysts a lot (as well as cysts in my breasts, a dermoid cyst in my girlbits, etc.). They were annoying, but harmless, and they do go away eventually.

Iam not a doctor, though, so don't take my word as gospel unless you visit a doctor and he confirms this. But this does sound awfully familiar.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:40 PM on May 31, 2009

I get these (unfortunately) on a regular basis... they're pretty harmless but painful pimples.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:43 PM on May 31, 2009

You might try exfoliating gloves in the shower/bath (mine are very thick and scrubby and came from the local health-food store). Polishes the skin while removing possible irritants and other junk that your skin picks up in the course of a day.

Hope you find relief soon. :)
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos at 7:21 PM on May 31, 2009

Go back to the doctor; a dermatologist if you can. Ask very specifically for bloodwork done to check your T-cells. It could be lymphomatoid papulosis, a benign condition that nevertheles needs treatment. I never met an NHS doctor who'd heard of it, and trust me, I looked! Even if it isn't, I find salt water scrubs or seaweed bath products are great for drying out spots like this.
posted by motsque at 7:25 PM on May 31, 2009

What, no pictures? Seriously, in dermatology, it's all about the pictures and the pattern. How long do they last? What comes out when you squeeze them? Is it cheesy, liquid, bloody?
posted by greatgefilte at 8:06 PM on May 31, 2009

If it is just a normal, but deep pimple, you should ask your dermatologist for a cortisone shot. Those clear up zits like that within a day for me.
posted by slateyness at 11:52 PM on May 31, 2009

medium-to-large, sore, itchy, bright red conical bumps with a whitehead in the centre

Try to get them to rule out staph.

I started getting boils like that last year (down to the whitehead present from the beginning, and lack of productivity). I saw three family doctors who didn't know WTF a chronic skin staph infection looked like and diagnosed them as spider bites and zits respectively, until I finally presented a fourth family doctor with a big one (like, palm sized) that had refused my attempts for a week to get it to open and drain. He immediately identified it as staph, stuck a needle in, squeezed a couple of teaspoons of pus out of it, and sent a sample off for culturing. It was normal staph, not MRSA, but has still been a pain to get rid of.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:17 PM on June 1, 2009

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