What is this on my elbow?
November 15, 2011 5:24 AM   Subscribe

What is this on my elbow? Pictures: 1, 2, 3.

First, the dermatologist said this patch on my elbow was either eczema or psoriasis (I can't remember which). She gave me some sort of steroid cream to use on the area. The next time I was there, I asked about it again. She said that it was unlikely that it was eczema or psoriasis because I don't have any other other patches anywhere else on my body. She looked at it again, suggested it might be a few warts clustered together but said that she really didn't know. I continue to use the steroid cream as needed. Would really like to know what this is so I can do something more than just put cream on it indefinitely.

More info: It appeared a couple of years ago and I just put lotion on it for a while before asking the doctor about it. This did nothing. It never hurts or burns or itches. It just becomes scaly when I go for 5-10 days without putting the cream on. It's about an inch wide and doesn't impact my daily life in any way (aside from wondering what the heck it is). This came about at a time when several other skin problems arose including warts on feet, seborrheic dermatitis on face, and a dry scaly feeling on cheeks (not sure what it's called). I'm 34 and female.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Are you sure it's not just really dry skin? It's hard to see from the pictures, but I think that's what my dry patches look like when they get bad. If that's the case, I think the answer is probably cream indefinitely (although I would skip the steroids as much as possible and ALWAYS use a thick, unscented moisturizer after your daily shower. Actually, have you tried that?)
posted by robinpME at 6:17 AM on November 15, 2011

Not a doctor, etc., etc.

It looks like eczema to me. It is possible to get eczema in just one place; I get it in one dumb little patch on my cheek under my right eye sometimes, and especially if I wear mineral makeup. Mine also doesn't itch or burn or hurt, it's just weird and unattractive. Don't ask me why it's just that one tiny patch and not my whole face.

My daughter gets eczema if she eats cow dairy, FWIW, and in her it can become quite bad. Might be worth experimenting with your diet to see if you have a food trigger causing your skin problems.
posted by Andrhia at 6:19 AM on November 15, 2011

Looks like my psoriasis which I only get in one ear (strange to only get in one place, but possible according to a rheumatologist and a derm...the immune system is a funny thing)
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:22 AM on November 15, 2011

Looks like the dry patches on my elbows. Exfoliation seems to keep it under control. I've never had a diagnosis, or asked for one, but that's exactly what it looks like.
posted by Miko at 6:24 AM on November 15, 2011

said that she really didn't know.

This seems kind of odd to me too. She may be CYAing but there's gotta be a theory, even if it's just "dry skin." Maybe another dermatologist in your future?
posted by Miko at 6:25 AM on November 15, 2011

(I get eczema too, if I wash my hands a lot with harsh soap. The major difference is that the eczema doesn't shed tons of flaky skin. My dermatologist told me that it's hard for them to tell the difference sometimes (!!!) so we probably can't tell from a picture. But if it is flaky my guess is psoriasis; if it's not flaky my guess is eczema.)
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:26 AM on November 15, 2011

It could very well be fungal infection. My son has this. Doctor diagnosed it right away, gave him triamcinolone acetonide cream.
posted by Fairchild at 6:28 AM on November 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Forgot to mention that it is on my son's elbows only.

Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 6:28 AM on November 15, 2011

My first thought was a fungal infection too.

If it doesn't itch or anything it's probably eczema. Lay off anything with SLS (sodium laurel sulfate or anything with such an ingredient) and apply aloe vera gel to it. If you can afford it, apply wild oil of oregano, let dry, and then apply aloe vera or shea butter to it in the morning.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 6:50 AM on November 15, 2011

Did the dermatologist take a scraping? It should be fairly easy to rule out anything fungal.

If you've been putting steroid cream on it for several years, and it's still there, it might be a good idea to talk to another dermatologist - that stuff isn't really supposed to be used over a long period of time (according to my doctor).
posted by muddgirl at 6:54 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

FWIW I get that from leaning my elbow on my desk. So I... stopped leaning my elbow on my desk.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:48 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a patch similar to this on my left elbow which I'm pretty sure is because that's the elbow I lean on my desk when I'm using the computer. My desk is charming but the top is a slightly skanky 60s wood veneer with a weird finish; I've wondered if I'm having a reaction to the wood stain, or if the dry, porous veneer is sucking all the moisture out of my skin. Or, maybe I've just got one naturally dry elbow, which I suspect isn't uncommon. If I remember to moisturise it daily it goes away, but I suck at remembering to moisturise my elbows and doubt I'll ever improve. If your elbow just "becomes scaly when I go for 5-10 days without putting the cream on", maybe you too have a super-dry elbow that you're going to have to either moisturise regularly or stop caring about.
posted by hot soup girl at 7:55 AM on November 15, 2011

I'm with DarlingBri and hot soup girl. I used to get scaly patches on both elbows, but worse on the left. Moisturizing helped a little, but only if I was diligent. I'm a pretty greasy gal everywhere else, so dry scaly skin was an anomaly. Finally at one point I realized it was from where my elbows sat on the arm rests of my office chair. I took the arms off the chair--which any ergonomist will tell you is a terrible idea--and soon after the scaly patches disappeared. Oh, vanity. Did you get a new chair a couple years ago?

FWIW, I have a weird scaly patch on the back of my shoulder that has been examined by my GP, a dermatologist and two residents, plus biopsied, and the official diagnosis is " I dunno, I guess it's just a scaly skinned bump."
posted by looli at 8:45 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

My boyfriend's left elbow looks kinda like that - its because his elbow rubs on the arm of his chair (the chair looks worse!). He uses his mouse in his right hand and leans on the left arm of his chair with his left elbow. Its a real mess but its just dry/callused skin.
posted by missmagenta at 10:16 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have psoriasis only on my elbows. Mine looks a little more warty than that (blech), but after just one application of steroid cream (rx that my doc prescribed) it goes away. I'm not great about remembering to apply it every day, but it goes away so quickly, no biggie.
posted by pyjammy at 1:20 PM on November 15, 2011

I only get eczema on my elbows now, and when I was much younger, I only got it in a single patch on the knuckles of my left hand. Mine is like you describe - it goes away with the steroid ointment, but reappears after a few days if I don't reapply.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 1:34 PM on November 15, 2011

Looks exactly like my psoriasis, though it's hard to tell from such low-quality photos. I know, it's kind of hard to take a picture of yourself and especially your elbows, right? Elbows get rubbed on a lot of stuff all the time, so it could be just irritation, but psoriasis can be in just one or two spots. Mine first appeared on the tips of my ears, and for two years that's the only place I had it. Don't feel bad about seeing another dermatologist for a second opinion if it's bothering you.

Steroid cream works for a lot of skin irritation, so I'd say she's doing the right thing (unless it is, in fact fungal), but getting another professional opinion never hurts.
posted by thelastcamel at 5:47 PM on November 15, 2011

There is some difference between them, but Eczema, Psoriasis, and Seb Derm, all seem to be pretty similar. Red, dry, flaky skin you can't do much about.

Since you have seb derm on your face, i'd guess it's almost definitely that. I have it on my face, ears, lately it's been showing up on my right elbow and my chest a bit. In other words, it can eventually spread.

I'd just moisturize it, or google for some other natural remedies (like apple cider vinegar).

Steroids, while effective for very short periods of time, are a horrible long term solution. They thin out your skin, and one day, they will stop working, and you will be 100x worse than before,
posted by User7 at 7:17 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's hard to be sure from you photos, but I get a similar patch of eczema somewhere on my body every winter. Sometimes there's a patch on my elbow, sometimes on my face, frequently on my hands, or on my back/torso. Sometimes it occurs on multiple sites, sometimes just one spot. I have been prescribed steroid creams over the years by various dematologists, and never found them to be super effective. They help, but they don't eliminate the problem, and usually I suffer all winter long. It's itchy and sometimes painful.

When I moved to Australia, someone suggested to me that I try tea tree oil (melaleuca), which has natural antibiotic and antifungal properties. I was willing to give a go, since I felt like the prescribed treatments never did much. This stuff is like magic for me. I apply it full strength onto the affected area once or twice a day, and within 3-4 days it disappears. I mean it clears up completely. I have tried some lotions and creams that had tea tree oil added, and these were much less effective than applying the oil full-strength with my fingertips.

My partner laughs at me, because he thinks that tea tree oil is for me what Windex is for Toula's father Gus in the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding-- I now use it for everything. Cuts, pimples, any kind of itch. Not sure if what you have is actually eczema, but it's worth a shot if nothing else has worked for you. A small bottle of tea tree oil is about $8-10.
posted by amusebuche at 12:09 PM on November 16, 2011

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