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Strange Red Bumps The Doc Can't Diagnose... Help!


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Over the past week I've developed flat-ish red bumps all over the insides of my arms and upper torso. They started out as a flesh color and then turned red after a couple of days. What's notable about them is they DO NOT itch. Every now and then I might scratch at one, but on an itch scale of 1 to 10, these are around a 2.

I went to the doctor's on Monday and he could not figure out what it was. He agreed with me that they AREN'T bug bites (based on their appearance, the fact that they don't itch, and that neither my partner nor my roommate have them), and suggested I keep taking Benadryl and Claritin (what I had been taking), and come back if it worsens.

While looking around the internet I've come across people complaining about pretty much the same exact thing in several forums, and none of them were able to recieve a diagnosis either. They're starting to spread down to my lower back and it's kinda freaking me out.

What I know:

  • I'm on no medication.
  • I don't feel sick.
  • I haven't made any significant changes to my diet or tried anything out of the ordinary (I'm eating out less and eating less fatty food, but that's the only change)
  • It isn't on my legs, outer arms, face, hands, or feet.
  • I don't drink caffeine/alcohol/smoke (i'm such a goody-goody)
  • I haven't changed detergents in over 2 months.
  • I haven't changed soaps/shampoo and I do not use lotion. I've been using the same sunblock all summer.
  • My partner (with whom I share a bed) and my roommate have no symptoms.

Things that could relate to it:

  1. They DID show up when I was premenstrual, and I'm now menstruating, so could it be hormonal?
  2. Last Monday I started a circuit workout that leaves me a lot sweatier than my normal workouts.
  3. I've been having elevated anxiety/stress, but the doctor confirmed that these aren't hives.
  4. 5 days before they showed up I was bitten by something (this DID itch) on my right shoulder. I got a big round splotch that was so red and hot to the touch I thought it was a sunburn and put aloe gel on it. The next day it was a bit swollen, so I took antihistamines for a few days... until the bumps showed up. There's still a slight redish spot where the bite was, but it isn't sore and doesn't itch. (the doctor didn't pay it too much mind)

And a picture: Bumps on my arm.

So if ANYONE out there has experienced this - diagnosed or not - or knows someone who did, I'd LOVE it if you could tell me what you went through, if it went away, if you treated it with anything... ANY info. I'm really lost, and since I'm a bit of a hypochondriac, this isn't good for me!

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Sorry, no definitive answer, just some thoughts--

The fact that they don't itch seems significant, but on the other hand if you're taking Benadryl, how do know for sure they don't itch?  Maybe they do, but the medication is working.

Friction and sweating can cause some pretty odd things to happen to skin.  Could you experime nt by stopping the circuit workout for a few weeks and see if things settle down?

Stress and anxiety can cause other problems besides hives.  They can make your skin vulnerable to other kinds of outbreaks, such as excema, for example.  So whatever this is, it seems reasonable that reducing your stress levels might help.  It certainly can't hurt.

(Sorry about this in advance....)  You say your doctor has ruled out bug bites, but what about parasites?  We recently went through several frustrating months with my mom and odd skin bumps before the doctors figured out that she'd somehow been exposed to scabies.   They were burrowing under her skin.  Scabies is pretty itchy, but maybe you were exposed to something else?

The fact that you haven't introduced new foods or soaps etc may not be as helpful as you think.  It's possible to develop an allergy over time.  It's also possible that your body has been managing to tolerate things in your environment,  but something has tipped the balance. 

Sometimes all it takes is one small new allergen, or added stress, and suddenly the body can't cope anymore.  You could be reacting to things you thought were "safe."

Are you seeing a dermatologist?  They specialize in skin issues, and would be your best bet for figuring this out.

Good luck!    

Original Post by amh042:

 

(Sorry about this in advance....)  You say your doctor has ruled out bug bites, but what about parasites?  We recently went through several frustrating months with my mom and odd skin bumps before the doctors figured out that she'd somehow been exposed to scabies.   They were burrowing under her skin.  Scabies is pretty itchy, but maybe you were exposed to something else?

The fact that you haven't introduced new foods or soaps etc may not be as helpful as you think.  It's possible to develop an allergy over time.  It's also possible that your body has been managing to tolerate things in your environment,  but something has tipped the balance. 

Sometimes all it takes is one small new allergen, or added stress, and suddenly the body can't cope anymore.  You could be reacting to things you thought were "safe."

Are you seeing a dermatologist?  They specialize in skin issues, and would be your best bet for figuring this out.

Good luck!    

 I really hope it not scabbies, i worked in a home for the elderley and i got it , it spread to my whole family! it ithches more the warmer it gets we dicovered what it was while on holiday in the south of france, did not sperak any french and had to waity until we got home to be treated.

also though my sons has had simair rashes when i have changed the washing powder or fabric conditioner.

good luck hope it is soon sorted!

I had something very very similar and in fact do have a photo of mine too but cant figure out how to upload pics in a post :(.  Last winter I was very sick with an eating disorder and consuming next to no fats at all while also exercising insanely.  My thyroid was way hypo and I had terribly dry skin, brittle hair, and other issues.  I was under tremendous anxiety.  I developed the same red bumps that started on my chest area and spread down torso and eventually to arms and upper legs (inner sides).  It went on for over two months.  There was no itching at all, and as I have had hives before this was NOT the same.  These did not go away and reappear, they just stayed and got progressively worse.  They only went away when I finally began to go through a recovery process and reintroduce foods/fats into my diet.  My doctor could not diagnose them either, said they were nonspecific, but we suspect it was a vitamin or nutritional deficiency, or it could have just been an immune response because my body was so stressed (physical and mental) and unable to fight off illness.  It may have also had something to do with having very dry skin/thyroid issues but I have had thyroid issues for many many years and never had this so I dont know.  I'm just glad its gone because it was quite unsettling.  You have my empathy.  Not sure if this helped, but maybe it could give you some more ideas?

I had a weird rash a few years ago similar to yours that started off as a single itchy spot on my ribcage for a few days and then steadily spread to the rest of my body (although weirdly never touched my face, hands or feet!).  They didn't itch for the first couple of weeks, but my skin did get very dry and sensitive about three weeks in.

Luckily, I had a general practitioner who had a special interest in skin conditions and he eventually diagnosed it as pityriasis rosea, which is an essentially harmless rash that goes away after a couple of months.  I've added a link to the Wiki page so you can see a picture:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pityriasis_rosea

Don't know if this helps, but if you think it could be this it maybe worth mentioning this to your doctor?  If it is this, your not likely to get any treatment, but will have to wait it out, although I'm happy to let you know what helped if you want.

Maybe go see a dermatologist to have it checked out.  I don't know you or anything about your lifestyle and am reluctant to post this because I haven't seen the rash and do not want to offend anyone here.  However, I had two clients who went for several months who had a rash similar to how yours sounds and it was a symptom of syphillis which is on the rise in the U.S.  Odds are it is probably something else, but, just wanted people to be aware that syphillis can produce a body rash, but, does not always.  Hope I have not offended you or anyone else, but, working in a community health field makes me feel people should know about this.

The pics of Pityriasis Rosea look an awful lot like your rash... in absence of another more likely explanation (or tests that prove otherwise) I think you can presume your rash is this, unless you develop any new symptoms.

I also wanted to reiterate that it is possible to become suddenly allergic to something you always use, such as soaps or whatever, and this includes your own sweat or tears. Yeah, you can become allergic to that too.

Your skin is an organ and can be affected by anything in your environment, it could be something in the air. A new place you visit, new furniture or carpet, plants, pets, you name it, absolutely anything...if not in your home, someone else you know could have made these changes, at work or anywhere else you go. And not everyone in your immediate circle would be affected the same way as you.

I had used one type of lotion for years, used hundreds of bottles, got a new bottle about three months ago and every time I used it I got a rash. In the end, I switched to something different and my skin is fine now. Weird.

My theory is this; Sometimes manufacturers change the formula or possibly change the other products made in the same machines, I think that any residue from the other product could affect the product you use, even if that particular formula has not changed. You know how they say sometimes that "this product is produced in a facility that produces nut products" or words to that effect, in case some nuts/ nut residue got in there somehow, even though that product should not contain nuts. Obviously they are protecting the consumer and themselves because people often have extreme allergic reactions to nuts in particular. I think the same kind of thing can happen with soaps, lotions, washing detergents and other stuff (except they don't warn you about that).

Original Post by notsofatsonow:

I had a weird rash a few years ago similar to yours that started off as a single itchy spot on my ribcage for a few days and then steadily spread to the rest of my body (although weirdly never touched my face, hands or feet!).  They didn't itch for the first couple of weeks, but my skin did get very dry and sensitive about three weeks in.

Luckily, I had a general practitioner who had a special interest in skin conditions and he eventually diagnosed it as pityriasis rosea, which is an essentially harmless rash that goes away after a couple of months.  I've added a link to the Wiki page so you can see a picture:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pityriasis_rosea

Don't know if this helps, but if you think it could be this it maybe worth mentioning this to your doctor?  If it is this, your not likely to get any treatment, but will have to wait it out, although I'm happy to let you know what helped if you want.

OH WOW!!! This sounds and looks almost EXACTLY like what I have! The whole ordeal started with a bight red, hot, patch on my arm and then, 5 days later, I woke up the the bumps on that same arm... then the other arm... then neck.. chest... back... (and still spreading bit by bit). It sounds like mine isn't exactly ordinary (if that's what it is), but it did say 6% of cases involve mostly the extremities. Leave it to my body to insist on the 6%.

My doc told me if it continues to spread, to come back and he'd have one of his colleauges look at it. If I do go back, I'll go armed with this info :)

Thank you so much! And I'd love to know what helped :)

Original Post by angelakingg:

Maybe go see a dermatologist to have it checked out.  I don't know you or anything about your lifestyle and am reluctant to post this because I haven't seen the rash and do not want to offend anyone here.  However, I had two clients who went for several months who had a rash similar to how yours sounds and it was a symptom of syphillis which is on the rise in the U.S.  Odds are it is probably something else, but, just wanted people to be aware that syphillis can produce a body rash, but, does not always.  Hope I have not offended you or anyone else, but, working in a community health field makes me feel people should know about this.

LOL, don't worry, it isn't syphillis. I was a good hypochondriac and did my research and saw the syphillis heavily affects hands and feet, and mine are all clear :) And I've had the same partner for about 7 years -- and I'm 200% sure we're both faithful.

I appreciate the heads up, though! :)

Original Post by naturebound:

I had something very very similar and in fact do have a photo of mine too but cant figure out how to upload pics in a post :(.  Last winter I was very sick with an eating disorder and consuming next to no fats at all while also exercising insanely.  My thyroid was way hypo and I had terribly dry skin, brittle hair, and other issues.  I was under tremendous anxiety.  I developed the same red bumps that started on my chest area and spread down torso and eventually to arms and upper legs (inner sides).  It went on for over two months.  There was no itching at all, and as I have had hives before this was NOT the same.  These did not go away and reappear, they just stayed and got progressively worse.  They only went away when I finally began to go through a recovery process and reintroduce foods/fats into my diet.  My doctor could not diagnose them either, said they were nonspecific, but we suspect it was a vitamin or nutritional deficiency, or it could have just been an immune response because my body was so stressed (physical and mental) and unable to fight off illness.  It may have also had something to do with having very dry skin/thyroid issues but I have had thyroid issues for many many years and never had this so I dont know.  I'm just glad its gone because it was quite unsettling.  You have my empathy.  Not sure if this helped, but maybe it could give you some more ideas?

I'm gald to hear you're feeeling better! I know when I whent through a bad phase of depression/anxiety the biggest physical change was my hair falling out in handfulls. Luckily, I have a lot of hair!

Luckily they seem like something that'll go away on their own, and I think notsofatso may have hit the nail on the head with Pityriasis rosea. I just have this irrational fear that every twinge, tick, and itch is symptomatic of cancer.Undecided

Thanks for your input!

Original Post by amh042:

The fact that they don't itch seems significant, but on the other hand if you're taking Benadryl, how do know for sure they don't itch?  Maybe they do, but the medication is working.

When they first showed up I thought it was actually the antihistamines I had been taking that caused it, so I immediately stopped taking them and didn't start again until after the doctor told me to take them, about 5 days later. In the time I wasn't taking them, the bumps didn't itch Undecided So I was totally confused.

But I think notsofatsonow totally linked me to the right thing Laughing The think I thought was a bug bite totally could've been the herald spot that preceeds Pityriasis rosea. And the pics of the rash look a LOT like mine.

Thank you so much for your input!!

Aurorasky, if it is pityriasis rosea it will get worse before it gets better.  The good news is that whilst you may have to put up with what is mostly a cosmetically unpleasant condition for a couple of months, it will go away and won't leave any scarring unless you scratch it too much.  It was a long time ago when I had it (about 20 yrs) but from what I can remember the only effect I had after the rash went was that my skin was drier than usual for about six months and then gradually returned to its normal greasy self around a year later.

I couldn't find anything that made it go away faster (although I've read since that sunshine might help).  Mine started to get sore to the touch and itchy around three weeks' in and my skin became hypersensitive and very, very dry to the point that it got so that even the water in the shower hurt (hopefully yours won't get that bad) but only on the parts affected by the rash. 

Anything chemical, scented, soap and my usual moisturiser seemed to aggravate it, so I cleaned my skin with oil (almond) or chamomile water with cotton wool.  I added a drop of lavendar oil to the almond oil as this has an analgesic effect and is also antibacterial.  I couldn't wash my hair for about three weeks, as my scalp was too sore to the touch, but was also so dry my hair didn't get greasy at all (which is unusual for me, I usually need to wash it most days).

I wouldn't use anything other than lavendar, except perhaps blue (Roman) chamomile oil or rose absolute - these are both very effective on sore skin and have a calming and are mild analgesics, but are very expensive and can be hard to source.  Another good thing for itchy or irritated skin is to use used chamomile teabags as a compress, surprisingly soothing and inexpensive too.

If you can cope with bathing, you could add a couple of drops of one of the oils mentioned above (or even the chamomile teabags or flowers if you can get hold of them), stirring them into the water very thoroughly before you get in. 

I would strongly recommend avoidance of the use of any other essential oils as they could be too harsh and aggravate the condition.

If I think of anything else I'll let you know, but I wish you luck and lovely clear skin in the near future!

Original Post by aurorasky:

Over the past week I've developed flat-ish red bumps all over the insides of my arms and upper torso. They started out as a flesh color and then turned red after a couple of days. What's notable about them is they DO NOT itch. Every now and then I might scratch at one, but on an itch scale of 1 to 10, these are around a 2.

I went to the doctor's on Monday and he could not figure out what it was. He agreed with me that they AREN'T bug bites (based on their appearance, the fact that they don't itch, and that neither my partner nor my roommate have them), and suggested I keep taking Benadryl and Claritin (what I had been taking), and come back if it worsens.

While looking around the internet I've come across people complaining about pretty much the same exact thing in several forums, and none of them were able to recieve a diagnosis either. They're starting to spread down to my lower back and it's kinda freaking me out.

What I know:

  • I'm on no medication.
  • I don't feel sick.
  • I haven't made any significant changes to my diet or tried anything out of the ordinary (I'm eating out less and eating less fatty food, but that's the only change)
  • It isn't on my legs, outer arms, face, hands, or feet.
  • I don't drink caffeine/alcohol/smoke (i'm such a goody-goody)
  • I haven't changed detergents in over 2 months.
  • I haven't changed soaps/shampoo and I do not use lotion. I've been using the same sunblock all summer.
  • My partner (with whom I share a bed) and my roommate have no symptoms.

Things that could relate to it:

  1. They DID show up when I was premenstrual, and I'm now menstruating, so could it be hormonal?
  2. Last Monday I started a circuit workout that leaves me a lot sweatier than my normal workouts.
  3. I've been having elevated anxiety/stress, but the doctor confirmed that these aren't hives.
  4. 5 days before they showed up I was bitten by something (this DID itch) on my right shoulder. I got a big round splotch that was so red and hot to the touch I thought it was a sunburn and put aloe gel on it. The next day it was a bit swollen, so I took antihistamines for a few days... until the bumps showed up. There's still a slight redish spot where the bite was, but it isn't sore and doesn't itch. (the doctor didn't pay it too much mind)

And a picture: Bumps on my arm.

So if ANYONE out there has experienced this - diagnosed or not - or knows someone who did, I'd LOVE it if you could tell me what you went through, if it went away, if you treated it with anything... ANY info. I'm really lost, and since I'm a bit of a hypochondriac, this isn't good for me!

I have no idea. I do get small red bumps on my stomach (though not as large as the ones you have) when I get a hold of gluten. I'm gluten intolerant (Celiac Disease). The best way to describe it would be to call it an allergy to wheat, barley and rye although it's more of an autoimmune disorder. My guess would be some kind of food allergy or an allergic reaction to something coming into contact with your skin. Some people are allergic to their own sweat, so it could be an allergy to anything! Maybe get tested for possible allergies, food and otherwise?

 

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