Thursday, November 09, 2006

Paging Dr. House...

I went to my doctor a couple days ago to have these red spots on my arms and legs checked out to determine if there was some serious problem or if there was anything to do to get rid of them since they'd been around for over a week.

These splotchy areas never hurt or itched, so I tried to just let them clear on their own, not really certain what they may have come from and having had them come on very suddenly. One afternoon while I was in the shower, I notice a patch of red spots on my thigh as I was shaving. After I got out of the shower, I caught a glimpse of my reflection and saw that the things were all over my arms and legs. They never got any worse but still hadn't gotten better after at least a week, and so I decided a visit to the doctor was in order, especially after my mom, the R.N., didn't have any idea what it was.

The nurse at the dr.'s office hadn't a clue what it was and couldn't believe they weren't at all itchy. A lot of them have a dry, scaly appearance (I know that's a super sexy image you've got of me in your head now;>), so I totally understand why anyone would think they should be itchy.

The first doctor didn't know right away what they were but thought they were probably a reaction to some virus. He searched his computer and came up with a couple of possibilities but none that really seemed to fit, so he called in the more experienced doc.

This one looked and asked more questions about whether I'd had a sore throat and what medications I've taken. At first I didn't remember having a sore throat, so he thought that my birth control pill may be the culprit since I'd just barely finished the second month. They both disappeared to consult some book of diseases and disorders to make sure it was what he thought it was.

As I sat for a couple minutes trying to think back over the past month or two, I suddenly realized that I had had a sore throat a little less than a month ago. I rushed out from my curtained room to tell them this. This meant I needed to be tested for strep since some poeple have reactions to strep with rashes or hives on their skin; in fact, my officemate's daughter can figure out when someone has strep before they do because she gets hives from the exposure before their symptoms ever appear.

If it wasn't strep, then it was erythema multiforme. My strep test was negative. I was advised to contact my OB/GYN in regards to the birth control pills in case they were the reason I developed this and to come back for a follow-up if more spots appeared. They said it should go away on its own in another week or two.

I spent a bit of time yesterday researching erythema multiforme. Apparently that sore throat I had was most likely the indicator of the spots' imminent appearance. Many people that develop this type of skin allergy have symptoms of a respiratory infection or sore throat or just general sick feeling 10-14 days prior to the rash breaking out on the skin. This thing could be my skin's response to any number of different stimuli: medications, bacteria, viruses, or even something like my latest tattoo. As far as I could tell, there aren't any tests to narrow down which of these were the instigator, so I don't know if I will just have to get a different birth control pill or if I won't be able to take them at all since the progesterone hormone that may have been the cause is in all birth control pills; that's how they work. The younger doctor didn't seem to think it was really the pill, though. He was still pretty sure it was exposure to some virus that brought it on.

Without knowing what my skin was reacting to, it's difficult for me to avoid exposing it again, which means I could have outbreaks in the future. While the spots aren't bothersome by being painful or itchy, they look weird, and I'd prefer they disappear and never come back again.

And on another weird note, I may have shrunk over the past 10 or so years. I first hit the height of 5'3" by age 10. I didn't grow again until 15, when I was measured to be 5'4" during a school physical conducted in the high school gym. People don't really realize that I'm actually only that tall because my shoes usually have about 3" in height. One day at work, the subject came up; I think we'd been discussing the length of pants since we're all less than average height. I took my shoes off to show just how short I was, and they were all rather shocked...and insisted they did not believe I was 5'4", more like 5'3". As it turns out, they were correct; I measured 5'3" at the doctor's office the other day. I either shrank or the measurement taken back in high school was wrong. Now, NS really is very close to being a foot taller than me, 11 inches instead of 10. I guess that's why it's easy for him to rest his chin on my head even with my shoes on;>


Anonymous said...

I used to be 5'11" and am now 5'7". I used to have to wear long torso bathing suits, but now I don't. My dr says I need a Dexa scan to see if I am losing bone. Wonderful. Why can't I lose fat instead of bone??

Anonymous said...

I think it's rather funny that when confronted with a mysterious illness all doctors will inevitably blame it on birth control pills. It's like the catch-all if you're a woman and the doctor can't immediately figure out what's wrong.

Jonathan said...

Excellent post - really interesting. You must have been pretty freaked out when you noticed the spots on your arms and legs.

My other half has hives at the moment - the dermatologist has drawn a blank at the moment (it's driving her round the bend)