What are these small itchy bumps occasionally showing up in clusters?
November 28, 2016 11:32 AM   Subscribe

What are these small itchy bumps showing up in clusters every now and then on my skin?

I know you aren't my doctor, but honestly this problem is probably not a big enough deal for me to see a doctor, but I'd still like to know what it is.

For the last couple of months I've occasionally gotten clusters of small, almost invisible, itchy bumps on my skin. It shows up for about a week and then disappears. At first I thought it was contact dermatitis, but the patterns of where it's been showing up don't match that. Now I figure it's probably some kind of viral type thing along the lines of chicken pox, but I'm not sure exactly what. I did some Googling but couldn't find anything that quite seems to match.

Places it's appeared: the inside of my wrist (twice, same wrist both times), the inside of my elbow, and the inside of my ankle. It's probably relevant to note that these are all places where I normally do not wear clothing, so I can probably rule out exposure to detergent or something like that. I can't think of any lifestyle or medication changes I've made recently that would cause it.
posted by phoenixy to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Could be dyshidrotic eczema. I get these on my hands (not the palms, as indicated in the article) and they're annoying but not troublesome. They flare up with seasonal allergies and in times of stress (so I have several bumps right now that have been hanging out for weeks). Applying salve helps a little, but not much.
posted by SeedStitch at 11:48 AM on November 28, 2016 [8 favorites]

I often get eczema on the insides of my elbows, at my wrists, and on the backs of my knees. It seems to happen more in the winter, although it isn't limited to that. It is generally really itchy, made worse by scratching, and applying a small amount of cortaid or hydrocortizone cream generally seems to help.
posted by needlegrrl at 12:28 PM on November 28, 2016

I recommend keeping a food diary for a while. This can help you see if there are any food relations to the bumps. My family member gets those same itchy spots (and locations) if they eat too much citric acid or acidic foods like tomatoes, pineapple, blueberries, or pre-packaged foods that have a lot of added vitamin C as a preservative.

To help the skin get better, cortaid helps. So does plain water washing of the areas (especially after a sweaty day), followed by applying Vanicream to keep the skin moisturized.

Good luck.
posted by jillithd at 12:54 PM on November 28, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far! In appearance it is similar to (but less pronounced than -- really, you can only see the bumps when the light is at a particular angle) some of the pictures of more minor cases of dyshidrotic eczema, like this one. Weird that the Internet only describes it as appearing on hands and feet, though.
posted by phoenixy at 1:47 PM on November 28, 2016

Just another data point: I spent a long time trying to figure out what might cause my mysteriously-appearing tiny itchy bumps. I did food diaries & switched washing powder, looked carefully at all my shower gels & soaps etc. Eventually I realised they were stress related - never at the moment of stress, but when I was preparing for something stressful, or just afterwards (e.g. a job interview or something) - and they were often triggered by warm temperatures or warm water.

Mine disappear within hours (sometimes minutes), but I'm mentioning them because they almost always appear at my wrist, elbow joint & sometimes down the inside of my arm, like yours. So, I guess keep an open mind for causative factors?
posted by AFII at 2:00 PM on November 28, 2016

I get those on the back of my hand and last year on my hip/ butt area and underarm. Scratching it makes me think about how much it itches when then makes the rash spread. It seems to me eczema type things never seem to look the same on different people.
After trying hydrocortisone cream, many types of lotions, and other eczema creams, what finally worked for me was the borage therapy advanced formula lotion. At the first itch this year I began slathering it on and I haven't gotten a rash yet!
posted by missriss89 at 3:33 PM on November 28, 2016

Are these areas getting a lot of sun? I have a sun allergy that results in itchy small bumps on my arms and hands. It's worse in the spring when I've been covered up for several months. After being in the sun for several weeks, it goes away. It just started happening a few years ago, so not a lifelong thing.
posted by cecic at 4:32 PM on November 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Dyshidrotic eczema is a subtype of eczema that appears on the palms and soles.

Your rash is more likely run of the mill atopic dermatitis (otherwise referred to as just plain eczema). That tends to appear on flexor surfaces like the elbows and wrists.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:41 PM on November 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I sometimes get dyshidrotic eczema, especially during finals week when I am under a lot of mental stress or when I have been really sick and under physical stress.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:10 AM on November 29, 2016

Based on the locations it's appearing I'm going to suggest looking into lichen planus. It's an uncommon auto-immune disease that has no known cause. I have a much rarer associated version and a strong, long-ish course of Prednisone knocked it back.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:17 AM on November 29, 2016

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