Elbow Dandruff

When I was little, my parents were happy to have money to put food on the table.  There wasn’t extra for luxuries.  Television was a luxury.  Our first TV set was a hand-me-down from a family friend who had just purchased a new color television; we got their cast-off black & white.  I was in the fifth grade.  Finally, my brothers and I got to see all the shows that our friends had been talking about.

We also got to see commercials.  What an education!  I still remember watching a commercial for an amazing product that claimed it would get rid of white flakes on a person’s head.  Turning to my mom, I asked if she thought dandruff shampoo would work on elbows, too.

Puzzled, she looked at my elbows and knees.  “Oh, that’s just dry skin.  Everyone has that.  Use hand lotion.”  Well, I had oily skin, not dry, but I tried hand lotion.  It didn’t make any difference, so I quit using it.  Eventually the elbow/knee dandruff went away and I forgot all about it.  Until recently…

Reading about different rashes, I keep coming back to psoriasis.  My rash doesn’t look like any of the psoriasis photos online, but psoriasis often begins on the elbows and knees.  It can go into remission.  I wonder.

Thinking back, I’m curious why my mom thought everyone  had white flakes on their knees and elbows.  I’ve never met anybody  with elbow dandruff, yet my mom (whose mother had psoriasis) thought that it was perfectly normal.  Did she – and all her siblings – experience this, too?

Unfortunately, I’ve developed more spots since seeing my rheumatologist.  Monday morning I’ll phone to ask if I’m supposed to see my family doctor or a dermatologist for the biopsy she wants me to get   😦

My rash doesn’t sound like any of the rashes I’ve read about.  The disconcerting new development is that the normal-appearing skin around the rash has started peeling off!  It’s multiple layers of skin – way deeper than a sunburn – and leaves the area feeling raw.  The little area on my hand wasn’t too bad, but it was alarming to rub my foot and have a 3×4 patch of skin fall off!

Then again, maybe it’s not even remotely like psoriasis.  This rash only appeared after I started taking Flexeril – one of the rarer side effects is a rash.  It would be nice to have such a simple solution.

One part of me is worried.  What has gone wrong now?  I found more blisters yesterday; today they’ve turned into more little bumpy patches.  How long until the skin falls off?  If this is related to the RA, then obviously my medicine isn’t working.  Has my third biologic failed?  That would be something worth swearing about.  The rheumy said we’d try a different class of medicine next, and it would be an IV.  “IV” should be spelled with many many many dollar signs.  There’s the time-loss to consider, too.  I don’t need this.  Maybe I don’t want to know what this rash is.

Another part of me is fascinated.  The more I learn about the body and the things that can go wrong, I wish I’d gone to medical school.  Not that I don’t love my life the way it is, but… what a privilege to study all the intricacies of how the body works and spend a lifetime keeping up-to-date on new discoveries.

I think of how childhood chicken-pox can show up decades later as shingles.  My elbow dandruff is but a faint memory; I’m really hoping that this new rash isn’t related.


8 thoughts on “Elbow Dandruff

  1. My goodness! Please go see a doctor and let us know what it is. You are making me check my elbows. I have these little bumps that come and go. I have often wondered what they are. They don’t hurt so considering everything, if it doesn’t hurt or isn’t broken, I am not worrying about it. Maybe I should! Feel better soon.

    • The funny thing is that I never would have mentioned the rash if my rheumatologist’s form didn’t specifically ask. Some days I’m not sure if I even want to know what it is. “One day at a time” is a good philosophy.

  2. The day after you posted this, The People’s Pharmacy ran an article on dandruf and other skin-cell shedding conditions, including psoraisis. This information might be helpful to you. Here’s the link and an excerpt from the article that links the condition to increased inflammatory response: http://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2012/02/13/dealing-with-dandruff/

    Scientists haven’t yet figured out why this fungus may get out of control for some people while others don’t even notice they have such organisms thriving on their skin. They have found that inflammation can trigger an immune response that interrupts the normal process of shedding dead skin cells. Instead of getting rid of one cell at a time, imperceptibly, large groups of cells clump together and fall off at once, making visible flakes. Histamine released as part of the inflammatory process may be responsible for the typical itch associated with dandruff and its nastier cousin, seborrheic dermatitis.

    • Thank you, Carla. I’ll check the link. Lab results are back, and I noticed that my CRP was three times higher than it’s ever been – lends credibility to the increased inflammation theory.

  3. Your comments about why your mother thought those symptoms were normal struck home. My thirty-something daughter was diagnosed year before last with a probable autoimmune disorder. That was just a couple of months before before I was felled with what turned out to be RAD, complete with positive ANA, high RF, and high anti-CCP antibodies. Turns out some of the symptoms that I’d told her all her life were normal weren’t at all normal. Because I was experiencing them and always had, I just thought they were.

  4. Pingback: Keeping My Thoughts To Myself « Mein Rheumatoid-Arthritis-Code

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