Not so comfortable in my skin these days!
January 3, 2011 7:55 PM   Subscribe

Help me identify this weird not-quite-a-rash on my legs.

Over the past several weeks, I've gradually developed a burning, stinging sensation on the front of my thighs. It feels somewhat like a rash (but there's no itching or sensation of heat), but the strange thing is that there's no redness or scaliness to the skin; it looks completely normal. Yet I have this constant stinging, as if the skin is irritated, and it gets worse when I'm out in the cold or if my pants rub against it. In fact, any contact, by my hands or anything else, makes it worse for a while. Last night, I tried using my Triamcinolone Acetonide cream on it (which I use for my contact dermatitis), and the rubbing involved in putting it on made the stinging much worse. When I woke up in the morning, the usual stinging was there; the cream had no effect, while it helps my usual rashes tremendously.

In case it's relevant, I should mention that I have very sensitive skin and have big problems with contact dermatitis; I pretty much get rashes from everything, including most soaps, lotions, toothpastes, toilet paper, laundry detergent, makeup, etc., etc. I was also recently diagnosed with rosacea, and I'm still working to control that. So I have a lot of experience with rashes, but I've never had one that didn't involve itching and redness, so I'm at a loss here. I'm wondering if maybe it's some sort of neuropathy, not a skin disorder at all.

I know you're not my doctor, but I'm just looking for some ideas I can research and discuss with my doctor. Thanks very much for your help.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
I have various pants that rub in various places on my legs; I can tell which ones I was wearing all day by where my skin stings at the end of the day. I've started using the heaviest-dutiest goop in those areas - especially in the winter when the problem is worst - but for some things I just give in and wear bike shorts underneath to reduce the rubbing.

If that's the case for you, you may have to track pants vs stinginess for a week or two to figure out the pattern.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:35 PM on January 3, 2011

If you've ever had chickenpox, you might be gearing up for a shingles outbreak, but "several weeks" is pretty long for a prodrome. And just trolling through your comments, you seem a little young for postherpetic neuralgia, especially the weirdie kind that happens without a precedent rash.
posted by gingerest at 9:29 PM on January 3, 2011

Do you rest your laptop on your lap? Mine runs pretty hot and it irritates the skin on my thighs.

Otherwise, a bit of Googling brings up something called Meralgia paraesthetica, which might be something to ask your doc about if the symptoms are ringing a bell with you.
posted by jaynewould at 9:40 PM on January 3, 2011

Response by poster: Reading the link, gingerest, it seems that shingles is usually on one side of the body only; I don't know if I had chicken pox as a child, though my sister's had shingles (I figure if she's had chicken pox, I probably have as well). I'm 46. And, yes, this has been developing over some time; I remember my legs feeling sort of tingly after a walk in the cold on Thanksgiving and being a bit concerned that the tingling took a day or two to go away.

Good idea, jaynewould, but I don't use a laptop. The meralgia paraesthetica does sound similar to what I'm experiencing, though more painful and in a slightly different location.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:03 PM on January 3, 2011

Are you pregnant? I experienced a similar set of symptoms during pregnancy due to nerve compression.
posted by bq at 10:10 PM on January 3, 2011

Response by poster: Ooh, interesting, bq! Can I ask what your doctor did about it? I hope you didn't have to just wait it out. (Oh, and it's really unlikely that I'm pregnant. Like REALLY unlikely.)
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:43 PM on January 3, 2011

Maybe sciatica?

In 2003 I sat down at work and my left thigh fell asleep; it never woke up. This is probably because the nerve is compressed in my lower back.

The result for me is that the front and side of my left thigh always feel slightly burn-y, with reduced sensation. It's like how your hands feel when you go play in the snow too long and come inside, half numb and tingly... that is, that's usually how it feels. Too much rubbing, or even the wrong pants can turn tingly to painful, and I have had hot or cold water splashed on that leg feel like acid and make me scream.
posted by Menthol at 3:19 AM on January 4, 2011

I had to wait it out. They had no help whatsoever. Eventually I wasn't pregnant any more and the symptoms disappeared. But it does suggest to me that this is one of the few situations where it might be worthwhile to try chiropracty, which I normally think of as total bunk. Especially if you've gained or lost a lot of weight lately, or if you were in a car accident, or there was something else that might have changed the way you walk and carry yourself.
posted by bq at 1:52 PM on January 4, 2011

It might be due to dry weather. Humidity levels in the 20 to 25% zone.

I have noticed that over the winter months my thighs have itched and burned tremendously. No amount of moisturizer has helped save this stuff called Udder Butter, they use it to keep cow udders from cracking. It was suggested to me by an allergist. The odd thing about it is there is no apparent dryness or flaky skin- just the burning you describe. You might discuss it with an allergist to see if they might lend you some insight.
posted by bkeene12 at 8:05 PM on January 4, 2011

oh- one more thing suggested... lay in a tanning bed for about 7 mins each week till the symptoms pass. It has something to do with the light waves and the reaction they cause under your skin. YMMV.
posted by bkeene12 at 8:14 PM on January 5, 2011

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