Solve my annoying, itchy medical conundrum!
October 5, 2010 1:18 PM   Subscribe

I am tired of looking like I have the chicken pox. I am also tired of itching. My doctor's advice might not have been helpful. What annoying ailment do I have?

About a month ago, I received what appeared to be ringworm on my bikini line. It was itchy and round and uncomfortable and looked just like the pictures of ringworm I see on the internet. There were a few small red dot-like bumps surrounding the rashes, both underneath my pubic hair (although not near my genitals per se) and extending a little ways out towards my upper thigh. I self-medicated with Lotrimin; it isn't completely better, but it's slowly improved.

I haven't been sexually active recently.

A week ago, identical symptoms appeared on the opposite side of my bikini line. I know ringworm can spread easily, so I treated it the same way.

Then I got a similar, equally itchy mark on my inner elbow, and decided to go to the doctor.

On what I thought was an unrelated note, I have quite a few red bumps all over my body, concentrated on my legs, armpits, and upper/inner thighs. Some were small and dot-like, others were huge, like mosquito bites. They're often bright red at first, then become a dull brown/red color. A lot of them developed a small dot of white pus, like a whitehead.

At first I wrote it off as bedbugs, because I lived in New York — I was about to move back to school, so I washed everything in high heat, bagged it up, and threw away my luggage when I arrived. (I only moved clothes between Chicago and New York — it's a new bed, new furniture.) The "bites" kept reoccurring, so I called out an exterminator. He didn't seem positive I had bedbugs (he mentioned "a few stains that could be related") but he sprayed anyway, I washed all my stuff again, blah blah blah.

Note that I have seen no physical evidence of bedbugs in either NYC or Chicago, and I've looked hard — but I know they're tricky little bastards and can be hard to find.

When I told the doctor about these, she said it could be bedbugs, but because of the sporadic reoccurrence of my bites (approx. every week) she diagnosed me with scabies. My doctor said the marks on my bikini line/inner elbow looked like ringworm, but never prescribed stronger medication, and never mentioned how or if she thought they were related to the scabies. She never scraped for scabies because she said she "didn't think it was necessary."

I washed all my clothes, bedding, etcetera again and used the prescribed cream.

But almost a week later, I think there are new bites (granted, much less of them...) and they itch like hell and I look like I have the chicken pox. (I don't. I've already had it.)

So, what do I do? I can re-apply the scabies cream in a couple days, and I definitely plan to do that (and re-wash all my clothing/bedding). I can have the exterminator come out and re-check for bedbugs. Are there other medical explanations that would account for both small round itchy bumps and ringworm-like rashes?
posted by good day merlock to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
FWIW, when we had a bought of ringworm in my household, it took a solid two months of using the topical cream before it was really gone--and it did spread a bit during that time.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:22 PM on October 5, 2010

If there is just one ringworm-type thing and the rest is chickenpoxy, and it is primarily limited to the torso, you might have pityriasis rosea. It is horribly itchy and annoying and looks really ghastly but does not scar like pox do.

Try a dermatologist instead of a GP.
posted by elizardbits at 1:23 PM on October 5, 2010

Response by poster: Holy crap, that picture on the pityriasis rosea article does look a little like me, except it's not limited to the torso (focuses mostly on the lower legs). Interesting.
posted by good day merlock at 1:35 PM on October 5, 2010

Response by poster: I also had a upper respiratory infection about the time this started, although that's was on/off for a while and only recently resolved itself.
posted by good day merlock at 1:36 PM on October 5, 2010

Get a referral to a dermatologist.

I had something sort of like this, except not itchy, and they biopsied it and it turned out to be a pretty rare thing called Lichen Planus.

In your case, people are looking at it and guessing. Really, only a scraping/biopsy will tell you for sure.
posted by anastasiav at 1:57 PM on October 5, 2010

Go to a dermatologist.
posted by radioamy at 2:01 PM on October 5, 2010

Sounds a bit like the weird flareups I had on and off for 3 years before busting out in shingles. Shingles is basically the chicken pox that you had as a kid busting out again when your immune system gets run down. (As I understand it, chicken pox never leaves, it's just that your immune system quickly learnes to contain it).
posted by Ys at 2:30 PM on October 5, 2010

I thought of shingles too, but that only occurs on one side of the body, and the OP has this rash, as I understand it, on both sides of the bikini area, so that rules out shingles.
posted by misha at 3:24 PM on October 5, 2010

The thing with ring worm is that the spores are everywhere, so you're always exposed to it pretty much. Getting an infection usually only happens when you're exposed to a whole lot extra or your immune system is compromised (which is why kids get it, their immune systems aren't as strong yet). Then the cream doesn't actually kill it, just stops it replicating so your immune system can clear the infection. So it could be linked to your infection, stressing your body so the ringworm was able to get a hold and/or slowing your ability to get rid of it.

But that doesn't explain the dots and I agree that we're all guessing. A dermatologist is definitely a good next step. Get this tested properly and go from there.
posted by shelleycat at 4:29 PM on October 5, 2010

I had scabies about 6 weeks ago. One week after treatment the itching was worse than ever, and I had new spots in new places. I treated again (despite my pharmacist telling me not to, and that it was normal). Within a week of the second treatment, the itching was 10 times worse, but there were no new spots.

It is now 6 weeks past, and I still itch like hell once I start scratching. (The scratching seems to trigger some sort of allergic reaction.) I get small raised bumps after a lot of scratching, but not beforehand. My doctor insists that these are allergy (histamine reactions due to overactive histamine due ultimately to the scabies) and that the scabies are no longer live, but that it takes a very long time for the dead bug bits and feces to work their way out of your skin, and that your skin is oversensitive for a long time afterwards.

In the past week the itching has got less every day, and the number of bumps has decreased gradually. I am ALMOST feeling normal again.

Tea-tree oil helps with the itching, weirdly: I think it dries my skin out. It also helps the scratched skin not get infected. I put it on before bed.

Hot baths, showers, make it all ten times worse. Cold water helps a little, but not if it trickles over the skin, because that starts tickling, and then the itching starts.

This is all to say, you may no longer have active scabies, but it might get worse before it gets better.
posted by lollusc at 4:32 PM on October 5, 2010

PS: My scabies look a lot like that picture of pityriasis rosea, but were originally limited to the lower legs and forearms. (They spread to the torso and upper arms/legs AFTER the treatment. Go figure.) I also wondered if mine were chicken pox for a while (which I have also already had - twice! (yes, it's possible).)

If it's reassuring, I thought my scabies marks might scar, but they are finally starting to fade. Just make sure they don't get infected.
posted by lollusc at 4:36 PM on October 5, 2010

As others have said, find a dermatologist. They look at strange things on skin for a living (well, many perform cosmetic procedures for a living, but the point still stands) and know skin medications better than GPs.
posted by zachlipton at 6:25 PM on October 5, 2010

Go to a dermatologist if you can. If it is Pityriasis Rosea, treatment you would apply for other maladies (scabies) can cause it to flare up all the worse. Google Herald Patch.
posted by history is a weapon at 6:28 PM on October 5, 2010

How about nummular eczema? Rashes can be tricky and often go undiagnosed. They're just a strange immunological response to something you may never identify. I have a brown rash on one leg that has been biopsied 3 times and each time the verdict was "stripey-brown-rash"--except they said it in Latin.
posted by defreckled at 7:02 PM on October 5, 2010

Yep, dermatologist. If you are not satisfied that the dermatologist is completely sure in a diagnosis, or if nothing changes after following instructions, go back for a biopsy. Be sure to mention Lymphomatoid Papulosis -- it's pretty rare and most doctors don't even think to check for it. (I always jump on here to bang the LyP drum when someone has spots because I have it and it's a scary waiting process for a proper diagnosis!!)
posted by motsque at 6:30 AM on October 6, 2010

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