itching driving me mad

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I have suffered with itchy skin for all my adult life. It gets worse as the day goes on. Mainly on my legs, inside of my arms and around rib cage where my bra sits. Have tried so many over the counter products to no avail. Often notice red bumps on legs when they are itchy. Any ideas? It is driving me insane.  Hard to focus when you itch so much.  I literally want to treat my skin off 

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11 Replies

  • Posted

    Hi Nicola, this sounds like an allergy to something, the question is, what?  Once you have tracked down the culprit, you can remove it and things that contain it.

    As soon as you said 'bra' I thought of nickel.  I am allergic to various chemicals, which produced similar symptoms to you.  I was fortunate in being referred for patch testing, which I believe they no longer do as routine.  It is very expensive.

    I worked out for myself that I am allergic to nickel too.  I used to put my mobile phone [when they were small!] in my bra when I had no pocket and immediately came out in a large red mark, that was very sore.

    I had never thought of nickel in bras, in the wires.  Marks & Spencer tell me that they don't use nickel in their bras and since I have been using them, I haven't had a problem.  I used to buy Fantasie bras but they tell me they use nickel and have no plans to remove it - well, they lost a customer!

    The other thing to look at, is what you use to wash your clothes.

    Have you been to your GP about this?  Perhaps you should ask to be referred to a Dermatologist.  They tend to prescribe stronger steroid creams than GPs, which are far more effective.  I was prescribed Hydroxyzine, a sedating antihistamine, which, if nothing else, helped me to sleep.  I took it at night at about 7pm, so that I wasn't drowsy the next morning.  The itching was always more intense at night.

    Good luck Nicola, and do go to your GP and ask to be referred.  The waiting list is long but it is worth getting on it.


    • Posted

      Thanks for your comments.  I have been to my gp several years ago and felt very fobbed off so haven't gone back.  I am pretty sure it is not detergent as I have used several sorts over the years and am now using an eco  egg  which are meant to be for people with sensitive skin conditions anyway.  Was hoping that a site like this a dermatologist might be able to suggest how to get a referral as I am not sure it is as straight forward as simply just asking your gp for one
    • Posted

      It is straightforward but your GP has to want to refer you.  GPs are quite resistant to referrals to Dermatologists, unless one of your GPs is interested in skin.  I have to say that it took me a lot of years before they finally referred me

      Do you know whether any of your GPs are interested in skin at all?  You might need to make a nuisance of yourself.


  • Posted

    When you say 'inside of my arms' do you mean, like where the elbow crease is? Is it everywhere where skin meets cloth? I'm wondering if you have a detergent allergy, or eczema exacerbated by your detergent.

    Is the skin roughish to the touch, a little hot and itchy? Do you have smallish bumps which have clearish liquid in? Not spots, but like really small bumps almost like blisters? It would make sense for it to worsen to the end of the day as the contact  of cloth has the longest point to skin contact. And it makes sense for it to be in creases or inside arms, tops of thighs, around bra where friction is.

    Mrsmop could also be right, could be nickel allergy. Do any of your bra's have exposed wire on the hooks? I guess sweating through the fabric could cause contact with the underwire and also nickel in the hooks.

    Is the itching worse after a shower? I find that eczema can be made worse but hot water, and probably some of my shower gels.

    Hope you find a solution. I know it can drive you crazy with the itching.

    Does it get worse in winter? Or when you are inside (central heating drying out your skin etc)

    Have you tried moisturiser? Or a barrier cream.

    • Posted

      Hi.  Thanks for the reply.  It is actually on the underside of my arms so not where the elbow crease is. I did wonder abouta detergent allergy too because tight clothes make it worse especially on my legs so have switched to an eco egg for my washing which is effectively detergent free. Pretty sure it is not nickel because my legs are worse than the bra area. I do wonder if it is possible to be allergic to the dye in clothes.  

      It is worse in winter. I have been wondering if it is caused by some sort of lack of sunlight but could it just be that my clothes are lighter  in the summer and legs are uncovered etc.

      I do get little lumps buti would not say they have a liquid in them. 

      My condition is actually made better to an extent by bathing.  Have tried all sorts of creams and lotions to no avail

    • Posted

      My original itching was my arms and legs and was triggered by cheap rubber gloves.  Eventually, following patch testing, I discovered that I am allergic to formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers.

      Formaldehyde is used in the rubber making industry for one.  My itching had become much worse when I changed cars.  I had always bought Volvos and fancied a change.  I subsequently discovered that the use of formaldehyde in vehicle manufacture, is banned in Sweden and also Japan.  I now drive Japanese cars and don't itch.

      The dye in clothes could have formaldehyde in it, for example.

      You would really benefit from patch testing if you can have it done.

      The Dermatologist I saw at the time, gave me a list of places where I would find formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers and, it is long!  I learned where to find it and how to avoid it.  It is possible but, from your point of view, you need to find out what you are allergic to.

      I wish you luck Nicola.


  • Posted

    Underside of forearms? Do you wear short sleeves and do you sit at a desk? If yes, could you be leaning your underforearms on the desk surface, and sweating lightly which could cause the irritation in combination with dust/dirt on the top of the desk.

    Or is it the underside of the top of your arms?Either side of your arms same side as ur back (sound more like detergent allergy), or inside of ur your arms facing your chest? Again detergent, but could be exacerbated by friction/heat/sweat etc.

    Tbh to me it sounds like eczema or dermatitis which is an allergy, and anything really can cause it to flare up. For me for instance, I get it on my neck and tops of shoulders and it flares up if I am under a lot of stress. I have to use hydrocortisone cream and savlon to get it to subside. I used to get it also on the underside of my forearms due to sweating sitting at my desk and friction from moving my arms when typing and using a mouse. I found it got better when i wore long sleeves.

    Shower gels or creams with menthol or tea tree also tended to irritate it, also neutrogena things with salicic acid.

    If it is a detergent allergy, I think I remember seeing somewhere that you should try to avoid biological detergent as this exacerbates the allergy. You could try a non-biological detergent?

    I tried lots of creams too with no effect, e45, doublebase, sudocream etc and the only thing that really helped was savlon and the hydrocortisone cream. Also when you dry off in the shower, try patting with your towel rather than rubbing (if you don't already).

     I can understand the frustration it can cause. I used to wake up at night sometimes with my legs itching like crazy, again savlon helped.

    Sometimes it's trial and error to find the best cream that will help. I also found taking an antihistamine helped with the itching at night, but not so much during the day for some reason. I take fexofenadine on prescription as the store bought stuff wasn't strong enough.

    I hope you find a solution that helps.

    • Posted

      Underside of the top of my arms on the back side.  Stress does make it worse too. Haven't tried Savlon.  Will definitely five thata go until I can identify if it is an allergy thanks 
  • Posted

    Has anyone given you an antihistamine to take?  I tried all sorts of antihistamines, until one GP gave me Hydroxyzine, which is an old fashioned sedating type, so if the itching tends to wake you up, this tablet helps you to sleep, as well as helping with the itching.

    I remember going to my friend's house, when she had a new settee, it was leather.  As soon as I rested my arm on the arm of the seat, my arm started to itch and came out in a rash.  Formaldehyde is used in the tanning process.

    I can also go to some stores and try on trousers and start to itch straightaway.  Again, the store told me that formaldehyde is used but shouldn't still be in the clothes by the time they reach the shop.  Then there are creams and shampoos etc..  I know I can use Clarins products and Nivea but I have to scrutinise the ingredients on everything that I buy.  It was so wonderful to discover M&S bras because life is so much more comfortable now.

    Through the course of your life, try to make note of when something makes you itch more than usual, then, 'dissect' it to try and isolate what it is that makes you itch.

    Good luck Nicola


  • Posted

    My daughter has crazy itching, triggered when we owned a cat for a couple months. I thought she might be allergic to the cat - took a lot of pushing but we eventually got her allergy testing. This was after the dermatology visit was inconclusive. dermatologist was total waste of time in my eyes cos all she got was prescription for more cream and bath emollient. 

    after the allergy results came back and there was nothing came up, I asked them for further details and discovered that my 5 yr old had given blood for some generic test for allergen reactors. Total nonsense!!  I told the doctor that I wasn't happy (a tad mad, in fact) and that allergies is genetic in my family (skipped me though). Told him I wanted my daughter to have proper allergy testing that was specific to food or pet or whatever it is. As mentioned by mrsmop, once you know what the allergy is, then you can do something about it.

    My poor wee 5 yr old had to give blood again but at least they did the right test the second time.  I would recommend you speak to the GP, call them, bug them. If you see the GP and then don't go back, then they assume all is well. If you want a result then you need to make regular contact. ask specifically for the allergy testing - not just the test for allergens but the one that identifies each allergy type. 

    Apart from that, itchy skin is remedied by good cream, which the dr can prescribe and might work out cheaper than buying off the shelf.  good luck and hope you manage to get the full allergy testing done so that you can do something about it.  My daughter's skin responds best to hydrocotisone (prescription only) when she has an episode. eumovate doesn't do anything for her, even though it's stronger.

    good luck.


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