Tingley Sunshine

Saturday was a beautiful, sunny proclamation that spring has finally arrived.  It was great to spend time out in my sadly neglected garden.  The rhubarb is growing like crazy, and the herbs are looking good.

There’s a peculiar thing about working outside in the nice, warm sunshine, though.  For two years now, whenever I’ve gone out in the sun, my skin starts tingling.  I’d forgotten about it over the course of our dreary winter weather.  Now that spring is here, the tingling is back.

I first noticed this strange sensation the spring after I was first introduced to the world of autoimmunity.  We took the kids on a field trip to Pearl Harbor and immensely enjoyed the abundant sunshine.  It was very weird to feel like I was being hit with raindrops, only to look around and find not a cloud in the sky.  The more time we spent outdoors (not hard to do in Hawaii), the more my skin tingled – eventually lasting even after we’d gone indoors (24 hours a day).  I decided it was probably the “sun sensitivity” that’s a possible side effect of the plaquenil I was taking, and responded by slathering on even more sunscreen and buying a hat.  When we returned home (to snow) and the tingling went away, I took it as confirmation of my hcq-side-effect theory.

I had no more tingling until summertime that year, and made it through the summer pretty well by putting my Hawaii hat to good use and going through liberal quantities of SPF50 sunscreen.  Autumn rolled around again with its grey skies, and the tingling departed.  I forgot all about that bizarre sensation until last spring, and finally mentioned it to my PCP, who said, “Yes, plaquenil can cause sun sensitivity,” but also told me that I should mention it to the new rheumatologist he was sending me to see.

Rheumy said, “No.  That’s not normal,” but in the myriad tests run, I think we both forgot about it.

It’s been a cold, rainy, icky winter, and I’ve not had any trouble this year until now.  At seventy-four degrees and not a cloud in the sky, I received my springtime reminder.

I know this doesn’t make any sense at all, but it’s sorta like when your foot falls asleep in a weird pins-and-needles kind of thing.  Well, except that with feet (or hands), it’s the entire foot (or hand).  With this, it’s just the surface skin of my arms and face, not deep down inside the muscle.  If I wear shorts, my legs feel all prickly, too.  Like I said, it doesn’t make any sense.

Maybe this is something I should mention to my rheumy (who I don’t see again until June – woohoo!).  In the meantime, I’m thinking of shopping for a few more hats.  I probably shouldn’t go outside without one, and the two I have aren’t always appropriate.  I can wear long-sleeved light-weight cotton shirts to keep my arms covered.  The real trick is going to be covering my hands.  Gardening gloves will suffice for yard work, but the tingling seems a lot worse this year, and I’m going to need to keep my hands covered – even in the car.  This was made clear on Sunday.  I don’t do anything formal enough to wear dress gloves, but gardening gloves are often inappropriate, and my winter gloves are too warm.  I’m stumped.

Despite the tingling, I love being outdoors, contemplating my gardens.  I’ve been slowly digging up the beautiful high-maintenance landscaping that came with our house, and replacing it with low-maintenance plants that are useful.  The front of the house is almost done:

On the left, there’s about five feet of mint.  Then two purple sage plants that spread out much farther than anticipated and got all leggy, instead of being nice and compact.  The next plant (about in the center of the photo) is compact, well-behaved pineapple sage.  There are some tiny strawberry plants in front of the rhubarb (they will eventually be moved somewhere else, but I needed a nursery bed for them, and this spot was available).  Behind the rhubarb is a rosemary plant (cool-looking purple flowers), and two different kinds of thyme; you can see those better in the photo at the top.

These are my kind of plants.  I put them in the dirt and ignore them except for when I want to harvest a little bit.  The sage and rosemary stay green all year.  The thyme is supposed to stay green all year.

Now if only I could find an herb to stop the tingling!

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23 thoughts on “Tingley Sunshine

  1. What a strange thing! The tingling, I mean…and you can’t find anything on the internet? Hmmm. Would be interesting to know what it is. You’ll have to tell us when you find out.

    Your house is beautiful!! I love the porch and the plantings look great! I’d be very happy sitting there with a good book and some iced tea…
    :) L

    • Google “tingling” and there isn’t anything that sounds similar. I’ll definitely post if I ever get a definitive answer as to the cause (and any solution).

      Thank you. We like the house. We enjoy sitting on the porch with a good book. It’s also my favorite place to sit and play my guitar.

  2. wow! Mine does this! Even before I ever started the RA meds and when I was on them and now off them again. I noticed it again the other when we had 80-degree weather and the sun was shining bright. Being on minocycline I have to avoid overexposure of the sun but I do anyway due to have very fair skin and a family history of skin cancer. I would love to know what is causing the tingling sensation. I’m sorry you experience this but it is good to know someone else is :P

    • You can’t imagine how nice it is to know that this happens to someone else. Not that I’d wish it on anyone… I’ll certainly let you know if I find an answer.

      • My Mom used to make a rhubard crunch, kind of like an Apple Brown Betty. Also always canned it for sauce. Give her bowl of that and a slice of homemade bread and she was so happy. They also work well canned with strawberries. Can you tell I grew up around it? Never did develop the taste for it tho. Thanks for bringing up a nice memory of Mom, as she passed in Feb.

  3. As a young adult, I used to get itchy and even break out in hives when I was out in the sun, even for a short time. That’s stopped, thankfully. Still, I can imagine what a aggravation this tingling must be, WS. And Leslie, too!

    Sounds like covering up to protect your skin from direct sunlight is the answer, though. It would be nice to know what causes the sensation for sure, too. I hope your rheumy will have some ideas.

    As for gloves, I did a little search for you. This site offers washable, stretchable, very light cotton gloves for everyday use: http://www.themedicalsupplydepot.com/Soft-Hands-Gloves?gdftrk=gdfV21082_a_7c293_a_7c2127_a_7c8708

    I’ve been searching for light, sun-blocking clothing for a while now because of the RA drugs; sulfasalazine also makes the skin sun-sensitive, and the sun is quite hot and intense in the late spring throughout the summer here in California. Bleh. Anyhoo, I’ve found a good source for clothing specifically made to block ultraviolet rays, but they’re fairly expensive. Sigh… This company is called Solumbra: http://www.sunprecautions.com/

    Best of luck dealing with this, WS. And I love your gardens! What a great idea! I’ve never eaten rhubarb, though of course I’ve heard of rhubarb pie. What are other ways to use it?

  4. My guess is that the meds are causing the tingling. I had this same thing from the plaquinil. I was hiking once for multiple days and the tingling/burning turned into a nasty rash so be sure to keep covering up if you work in the garden. I don’t notice the sun sensitivity as much with the mtx. I burn more easily but no tingling.

    • My guess was the plaquenil, too. The rheumy saying “no” threw me. Now I’m thinking that if it’s not a med side-effect, maybe I should find out what it is.

  5. Socks: This is strange and hopefully it’s just a side effect of the meds. Please keep us posted.
    The sun makes some people sneeze and others break out, so if it’s not the meds, perhaps it’s a mild sun allergy. Hopefully it doesn’t keep you out of your beautiful garden. I’m definitely envious!

    • I’ll be sure to post again, but don’t see my rheumy until June so won’t get an answer for a while. :D I’m particular about my plants: ones that are nice to look at, somewhat useful (for food or healing skin), don’t require much upkeep.

  6. In my case it isn’t meds as I have had this while I was off meds. I was even concerned about Lupus at one point cause of my sensitivity to the sun but doc said no. Maybe it’s because I avoid it or when I am out in it I wear tons of sunscreen? Maybe my skin is just happy to have a little sun and does a little tingley dance…hehehe…..seriously though it can be annoying..

    • Maybe my skin is just happy to have a little sun and does a little tingley dance…
      LOL :D
      Glad to hear it’s not lupus for you! If I hear of any way to control the tingling I’ll let you know.

  7. that is exactly what happens to me…every spring and summer…I feel like it has just started to rain…I have asked all my drs and they all say the drug I take for RA wouldn’t cause it…but I disagree…if I stop taking the plaquenil it goes away…if you find something that helps…besides stopping the meds…please let me know…thanks…

  8. Hi I am looking for a reason for the same sensation on my arms.
    I think there is a fine rain coming down but there isn’t. As far as I know I do not have RA any ideas?

    • It would be something to discuss with your PCP. Take a list of all the prescription and over-the-counter medicines you take, as well as all the herbal supplements you take. Those could be a factor.

      Your doctor will ask for details about when it happens. Does it happen if you wear long sleeves, or just in short sleeves so the sun hits your skin? Does it happen to your legs if you wear shorts? Does anything make it better? Does anything make it worse? Figure out answers to those questions before you go in for your appointment. I’d be interested in knowing if your doctor comes up with anything.

  9. Oh no! Did you ever find a reason? I just googled up tingly sensation on skin when in sun and found your blog! I googled because, you guessed it, same thing happening to me! I’ve got several autoimmune issues but not on any drugs that cause photo sensitivity… So hoping perhaps you have something to share?

    • I never learned if it was due to the plaquenil I was taking at the time, or if it was part of the autoimmunity. It did go away over time. You might have a chat with your pharmacist, because that person will probably know more about your meds and their side effects than your doctor, and might have suggestions on what might help. Good luck!

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