Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hot Pepper Healing

For about 15 years, I spent at least 30 minutes after almost every shower in total agony. My legs and arms were so itchy I often made them raw with scratching. At its worst, I rubbed a sharp hairbrush all over my shins and thighs. My legs shake, and sometimes I can barely stand. A few times I've cried.

Sometimes after washing dishes, I walk around the house scratching both wrists at the same time. I probably look a bit mental.

But scratching doesn't help.

Many years ago, when the Internet finally became a useful place for lay research, I found out I had "aquagenic pruritis" -- water-based itching. I'm allergic to water. But there was little help available.

The dry air in California had lessened my symptoms, but the last couple of weeks have been very humid (for CA standards). I've also been working out regularly, and sweat, being water-based, also causes the itching. After working out, a shower gets me clean but doesn't stop the intense discomfort.

A couple days ago, I did more research out of desperation. I found a few articles that confirmed I have aquagenic pruritis rather than some other more severe (but at least openly recognized and treatable) condition. Several sources recommended the use of a capsaicin cream (more commonly used for athritic pains).

I bought some yesterday, and it worked!

Capzasin's active ingredient is capsaicin (0.15%), the stuff that makes hot peppers hot -- and it WILL burn your skin if you're not careful. I applied too much to a section of my legs when I thought it wasn't working fast enough, and I woke up several times last night with fiery legs. I even had a dream that I had black patches of burnt skin all over them. Get the no-mess rub-on applicator, and apply a thin layer wherever there is itching. Within 10 or 15 minutes, the itching was gone.

Be sure to read all the warnings and directions on the packaging. (You DON'T want this burny miracle juice somewhere sensitive!)

Here are some things I've done to help control the itching of aquagenic pruritis:
  • Dry off quickly and well after showering. Apply a lotion or body spray, but not excessively. Get dressed as soon as possible. Making sure the skin is not exposed seems to help.
  • When the air is humid, and especially at night, wear sleeves. People thought I was nuts for going out on a hot summer night in Massachusetts with a long-sleeved shirt on, but being a little too warm is vastly superior to being itchy. Cotton seems to be best.
  • Walk around. Don't sit still and think about the itching. Walking also helps to minimize the legs tremors.
  • Scratching doesn't help, so try not to touch your legs. Make a quick scratch with the toes of your other foot, but don't scratch until it stops or you'll be there for a long time and end up damaging your skin.
  • After swimming, it's best to get in the hot sun and dry off thoroughly. I've had much better luck with this in CA than I ever did in New England (where I had pretty much stopped swimming altogether because of my condition).
  • Use Capzasin! My legs are still a little burny as I type this (and the packaging warns of this, but also says it will go away in a few days, and I should start to get used to it). Capsaicin is a lung-irritant, so be prepared for a little coughing and sneezing. Next time, I'll apply the medication in a well-ventilated area (probably on the patio).
I hope this is useful to some other sufferer out there. Some people are selling "miracle cures" guaranteed to stop the "itching terrors," but I think this information should be shared freely if it means relief for another person.

I am extremely thankful to have finally found something that works!


Anonymous said...

My daughter has eczema and rather than get stuck with round after round of steroid cream we've tried some other alternatives. The best for her seems to be regular tea tree and lavender oil in the bath to stop anything getting infected and the chickweed cream on the worst itching spots.
Good for you for finding out your own information and resourcing your treatment!

sukigirl said...

I've also used a capsaicin based cream but for some residual nerve damage in my shoulder. It definitely helps me when my pain gets beyond the ignore level.
I've also shared it with a relative who suffers from arthritis.
Glad you found something that works for you.

Anonymous said...

Kim-I have lived with this darn itching thing for 6+ years. Have been to Derms, reg MD, I have been precribed anti-depressants, xanax, ativan, because it's "all in my head". Of course the last 2 chilled me out, I didn't need to be...I just want to stop itching!!! I have done research on the internet for years with no diagnosis. Then a couple days ago a friend sent me a link to wikipedia for AP. DIng Ding Ding we have a winner folks! I think I've been on the internet ever sense! I am so happy to find "others like me"! I am sad we suffer with such a crazy disease, but now I know and my family knows I'm NOT crazy...well at least not because of the itching haha! I will try the capz cream I also heard tanning helps...but then we get skin cancer....
Thanks for your blog!!

Anonymous said...

You're so right about capsaicin and itch relief. There's a new skin spray from Greensations called Thermaskin and it uses low dose capsaicin and caffeine in a spray form that stops itching in less than a minute and with No burning. It really works. I won't post the website because I don't want to seem like a salesman, but if you're interested you can google greensations. I like your blog alot. Great info.