I have already diagnosed myself with smallpox and shingles
July 3, 2010 11:48 AM   Subscribe

Small red spots on my skin: what is happening to me?

I have small, pencil-eraser-sized red spots appearing all over my body. The first three or four appeared on my stomach about 2-3 weeks ago. I noticed one on my shoulder and arm earlier this week. Yesterday, I inspected myself and found about 6-8 on my stomach, 3-4 on my back, a few more on my arms, and 2 on my neck. They seem to be spreading.

They do not itch. They are not appearing in clusters; there is generally only one in an area, except on my trunk (where they are closer, but at least half an inch apart). They seem scaly, but are not really raised.

I have not changed soaps, detergents, or hygiene products. I have not bought any new clothes. My boyfriend has no spots on him, so I assume it's not bedbugs or fleas. None of my housemates report anything. I have not started or stopped any medications. The only thing I am taking is the Pill. I had chicken pox as a kid, and pityriasis rosea as well, but I recall the spots being quite a bit bigger. These are uniformly small.

(And I will be calling a doctor on Tuesday, but I am doubtful of my ability to get an appointment within a week. And am somewhat freaking out.)
posted by quadrilaterals to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
IANAD, but it could be tinea versicolor. I have this condition. 400 mg of ketoconazole tablets clears it up. Repeat every 3-4 months or so.
posted by King Bee at 12:08 PM on July 3, 2010

Ringworm is what jumps immediately to mind (nothing to freak out about) , especially if you aren't feeling ill otherwise. - it can show up in weird ways. It's usually not itchy or uncomfortable, and usually starts in places that are covered so you don't notice (more moisture).
It spreads by touch, so it can be in a few spots all over - it will only cluster, if memory serves, if you scratch/fiddle with the spots, which causes new ones to appear.

If it's ringworm, you'd generally notice the spots start to turn into rings with scaly stuff in the middle - and the edge is usually slightly raised, or at least appears that way - not always though.

The older ones should be larger than the newer ones - but growth rate varies.

If you hadn't mentioned scaly skin - I'd say boyfriend with a red magic marker might be a possibility....... but that seems unlikely.

Good luck with the doctor - it's probably nothing. (but absolutely go to the doctor)

Oh.... if you have a good, bright UV light (a currency-detection one might work, I haven't tried) - I beiieve ringworm will fluoresce - try one in a dark room if you can..... but don' freak out if it doesn't - I'm not sure about that.
posted by TravellingDen at 12:18 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe pityriasis rosea? It's consistent with the size, scaliness, and torso-concentration. I had this years ago and it took a couple of months to go away, but was not that bothersome.
posted by dayintoday at 12:35 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Prickly-heat? Hives?

It sounds like a rash. No one can tell you much, here. But those are the first things that come to my mind.
posted by marimeko at 12:38 PM on July 3, 2010

Are you positive these are not some kind of bug bites? Sometimes a bite's incision point is not visible to the naked eye, or heals/disappears and only a few days later the reaction sets in (red spot). Eliminate that possibility, just to narrow down.
posted by VikingSword at 1:59 PM on July 3, 2010

Those sound like bedbug bites. Not everyone has an allergic reaction to the bites, so you and your boyfriend could both be getting bitten but only your skin reacts to it.

Have either of you traveled in the past few months (bedbugs frequently hitchhike in luggage), or brought any new furniture or other stuff into the home that could have contained bedbugs?

Also, despite their name, bedbugs can infest anywhere a tasty human host spends a lot of time sitting/lying still. So you could have bedbugs in a couch or chair, or in your office.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:55 PM on July 3, 2010

IANAD, but I do have lymphomatoid papulosis. Mine started to manifest in my early 20s in a way very similar to what you describe. It responded very well to methotrexate, and I don't even take that anymore. It just goes away sometimes.

Mention it to your doctor and ask for your T-cells to be checked for abnormalities. It's not common at all, so you might have to tell your doctor exactly what you want your blood checked for.
posted by motsque at 4:32 PM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Some of your symptoms sound like ringworm (which is a fungal infection and not caused by a worm). The fact the spots are red and scaly sounds exactly like ringworm, as does your observation about them spreading.

However, some of your other symptoms do not sound like ringworm. Ringworm generally itches quite a bit and often forms in a slightly raised ring. You stated the spot did not itch, and you did not mention anything about a distinct ring. Furthermore, even untreated ringworm should start looking better after three weeks, assuming you still have those 3-4 original spots. The size also seems a bit small for ringworm. Finally, ringworm spreads extremely easily, and I imagine your housemates, boyfriend, or friends would have gotten it by now if it were ringworm, especially since you have spots on exposed areas like your arms.

Your best bet is to follow through with your plan of seeing your doctor sometime soon. It is more than likely nothing to panic about, but you should get it check out regardless.
posted by CharlieK9 at 10:34 PM on July 3, 2010

Sounds like pithyriasis rosea. INAD, but I had it last year--it is not dangerous, but it does last a few months, which is a bummer. It's believed to be caused by a virus, and my dermatologist told me it's the top differential diagnosis for a ringworm-like rash. (She just looked at it and diagnosed it on the spot, in two seconds.)

As long as you're not uncomfortable and you haven't transmitted it to anyone in the house (I'd go ahead and wash all your sheets and towels in bleach and hot water as a precaution against ringworm, although it seems unlikely at this point) take the appointment whenever you can get it and don't panic. IF it does get uncomfortable or really unsightly, they can prescribe you a steroid to bring down the redness, but mine never got that bad.
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:28 AM on July 4, 2010

The OP says she's already had pityriasis rosea, so presumably knows what that's like. I had it a few years ago, and it itched like crazy and prevented me from sleeping, which doesn't sound like what the OP has.
posted by altolinguistic at 3:40 AM on July 5, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. Like altolinguistic said, I'm pretty confident it's not pityriasis rosea. (No itching, small spots, doesn't get worse with heat (which happened when I had p.r. before), etc.) I haven't thought of ringworm, but none of the older spots have turned to rings or become any larger.

Anyhow, I am now fairly comfortable that I'm not dying. I'll see a doctor hopefully this week.
posted by quadrilaterals at 8:52 AM on July 5, 2010

Response by poster: (As a note: the spots have multiplied seemingly exponentially. I am getting myself to a doctor post haste.)
posted by quadrilaterals at 7:06 PM on July 5, 2010

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