Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2008 Olivia, Community Member, asks

Q: I have a bumpy and very itchy rash on my upper/outer arms.

I moved to the Big Island of Hawaii two years ago and ever since have developed a rash on both upper arms that occurs from early summer to late winter. Only the outward facing parts of my arms, from elbow to shoulder, are affected. I have little red bumps that often bleed because I am constantly scratching. It is NOT dry skin that causes the itch but an intense stinging feeling - like sharp pin pricks deep under the skin. I've tried mupirocin, overthecounter lotions, and every "fix-it" suggestion I could find but nothing except direct application of an ice pack on it will temporarily stop the itch/pain. Can you PLEASE help me?

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Answers (17)
Khalee Thompson, Community Member
4/15/09 8:06pm

I have had this rash for 8 years and just found out what it is via the internet last year.  I took the information to my doctor and he said oh yes this is very common.  Why could he not tell me this for the last 8 years, I will never know.

PolyMorphous Light Eruption...  have a look here

Your white blood cells think the sun is attacking them so they make these little postules filled with sticky liquid to protect the skin...  I know, it sounds crazy :)

You can try having small doses of the sun each day to build your skins strength but it will only help slightly.  The best thing to do is simply stay out of the sun, it's very hard to do though when you have no choice.

I have had allergy testing and have used every steroid cream available, polaramine helps to reduce the itching, burning, stinging & inflammation for about 6 hours but you end up overdosing your body on it and get very tired.    I have found the only thing to totally get rid of the symptoms is a steroid from your doctor, mine is called Panafcortelone.  I was first taking 50 mg a day but it had terrible side effects of nausea and a burning heat radiating from my legs, and I put on a lot of weight very quickly.  I got down to taking 10mg a day and this was still helping.  I got to the point where I could put up with the rash without the tablets and it is slowly going away.  It's been 4 weeks since I took the steroids and although it drives me crazy some-times, I am trying to stay away.

Mine goes away at the end of Autumn and Winter and comes back every year half way through Spring.  I am so glad to know what causes my rash but, sadly the knowledge doesn't stop it from happening...   I just don't feel so helpless for not knowing any-more.


LooLoo, Community Member
3/13/09 4:22pm

I have exactly the same rash too and was hoping to get an answer today from your question.  The doctor wouldn't see me and so I have to wait for it to dissapear.  Could be an allergic reaction??  I'm taking an antihistamine tablet for hayfever daily and applying cream to it but it still itches like mad!!  Hope someone can help?



TRS, Community Member
5/30/09 9:34am

I recently experienced a rash that appeared primarily on my inner forearms in each of the past two years, during spring and summer.  I narrowed it down to a reaction caused by skin exposure from garening and removing grass & sod around a cottage property I purchased two years ago and getting contacted by the soil/sand just under the grass and in garden areas.  The super-extreme itchiness felt like things crawling under my skin that I had to scrape out with something. I had never had prior rashes or medical issues of any kind, and have worked doing landscaping, gardening around my home in the city for over twenty years.   


I tried a number of simple remedies and then a dermatologist prescribed fluocinonide, all of which didn't work or reduce itching.  Finally I tried a seabuckthorne-based soap which is sold in Walmart (Face Doctor- ~$15/bar), which I lather up and leave on my skin to dry - and miraculously my itching subsides almost immediately and the disappears within a week or two. ( I also stop my gardening and now wear more protective clothing/gloves.) This soap is astringent so it does dry the skin somewhat, but the relief from itching and slow disappearance of the rash is well worth it. I also understand that the soap is quite effective for rosacea and some other skin rashes.


Hope this is of some help.



Meng, Community Member
6/ 5/09 2:01pm

I recently came back from a Southern Country, and in the past have been a Lifegaurd.  Every since coming home from El Salvador (beautiful) I have experienced this rash on my upper arms.  Does exposure to sun begin this reaction?

Khalee Thompson, Community Member
7/21/10 6:26am

I experienced the rash for the first time when I was 26 years old.  Mine is definitely caused by exposure to the sun. I believe that your body slowly reduces its tolerance to the UVA/B over time and therefore starts to react, seemingly 'all of a sudden'. I get very small postules (blisters) that fill with a sticky liquid, which is actually white blood cells trying to repair the damage to the skin.   Apparently, quite common but still not very pleasant at all.

T from Mich., Community Member
7/23/09 4:47pm

I have exactly the same thing.I Am a 46 yr.old white male from Michigan and it started about 5 years ago.It starts about July every summer and lasts until Sept./Oct.             First I get itchy skin on my upper forearms and or biceps.Usually it's on one arm but have had it on both.Then it develops little red bumps that eventually turn white and oozy.Last year I must have got infected as I developed an abscess the size of a quarter and a half inch deep(very painfull).Tried every concoction you can buy and several prescriptions;saw 3 doctors,NO HELP.What is this and what works to stop the itch?                     Goin'Mad, T.

dorcasina, Community Member
9/ 6/09 1:21pm

T, I'm goin' mad about this, too. It sounds like it may berelated to polymorphous light eruption, but I don't think it's the same thing. It's really awful, though. Sounds like exactly what you are talking about. I've had those infections, too. It's embarassing because I can't wear sleeveless or even short sleeves. I have scars all over my upper arms. My dermatologist said she doesn't know what it is--thanks a lot! She's been treating me for over 8 years, but doesn't know what this is. I am currently waiting to get the name of another dermatologist who has been practicing for years and apparently knows everything. We'll see. If I get any answers, I will contact you.

skypilot1979, Community Member
9/25/09 8:54am

i too cant wear sleeveless shirts, im 30 now and started getting them when i was around 9, we moved to washington st. from texas, thats when it started (upper arms upper back and chest) they itched and burned but they started off as dryish white bumps then they turned res, then they pimples up, they eventually scarred up and thats what i have left, they stopped comin around ther age of 19, but it sucked being all scarred up

Khalee Thompson, Community Member
7/21/10 6:30am

Ask your doctor about PMLE and ask him to put you on a course of steroids.  All it takes me is a 3 day course (25mg morning and night) and the burning, stinging, itching rash that covers my arms, legs and feet is totally painfree and I just have to wait for another week for the rash marks to go.

kathinport, Community Member
7/13/12 2:19pm

I can relate to the awful infections and scars. I have bandaids on or long sleeves and it is 84 degrees out. it is so embarrassing. I look like a "tweaker" on my arms. My doctor said i got a staph infection from my plants but I get it every year. Its been about 6-8 years now. He used anti-biotics as my infections were so bad and it cleared them up but they always come back and leave scars and then I don't get anymore infections from fall until the next spring/summer. Any new updates??? 

Atool, Community Member
8/28/09 9:02am

even i suffered from same skin rashes....they used to itch a lot and would bleed if i scratch them... the best medicine is AVIL 25 (two times daily for 3 days-1 morning n 1 night)... use aloe vera gel on the affected area... n drink milk with a tea spoon of turmeric powder for few days... all ur skin problems`l vanish... if u wanna improve ur resistance n don`t want ne skin complications then start neem tablets for a month(two every day).... tc`

lila, Community Member
9/ 1/09 11:01am

i had these same symptoms accuring in the summer in spots circle size rashes on arems and shoulder I went to several dermatologist none of the creams worked, and my grandmother saw them told me it was a fungus that the sun would irritate it, and told me to eat plain yogurt and apply monistate for yeast infections topical kind and guess what it worked never had the come back again and now I use a lot of uv protection a home remedy people used when they worked out in the cotton fields they put yogurt on the arms as well but monistat is a yeast infection cure and fungus is kinda same thing works for everyone I have ever told

dorcasina, Community Member
9/ 6/09 1:17pm

It sounds like people are talking about two different types of problems. The person who mentioned polymorphous light eruption gave a web site, but as far as the pictures are concerned, they do not look like what I have. I have more of what one man was talking about. It feels like I have an itch on my upper arms and when I scratch it, bumps erupt that are painful and eventually break open from so much scratching. I also, as some people mentioned, feel like I have something crawling deep under my skin. This is worse in the summer, but I have experienced it through the fall and part of winter, and I live in the Northeast. I've had this in varying levels for several years, but I've had it especially bad over the past year and a half or so. My dermatologist actually told me to go in the sun because she thought it would help??? It didn't. Also, I have used many creams and lotions (prescription and otherwise), none of which helped or only gave very temporary relief. Ice does help, but that is uncomfortable to sleep with.

Cindy, Community Member
10/ 7/09 9:27am


Wish I had an answer!  My sister and I both have this.  My doctor does not even listen when I bring it up.  Ice is the only thing I have found that helps also.  If you come up with a "cure" please let us know. 


itchy in Denver, Community Member
7/29/10 9:57pm

I have had this condition for years.  I live in Denver so the elevation may be making this worse.  I'm going to try to stay out of the sun and wear super sun screen. When I scratch my arms, it only hurts/itches worse.  In the summer I always have scabs where I've scratched my arms until they bleed.  The only thing I've found that helps stop the pain is ice packs. I literally ice down my forearms and it stops the itch so I can sleep.


I too was just given steriodal lotion by my doc.  She thought it was dryness.  It's not.

shelly, Community Member
8/13/10 12:48am

Hey guys,


I don't have a solution to the problem, but I may have some more coping mechanisms to deal with the itch.


Icy Blue, the goo that you rub onto sore and tired muscles as an alternative to icing them, is heaven sent when it comes to itchy rashes. It cools the inflammation and may sting when applied (though in my experience, pain is preferred to the itching!) Watkins manufactures a great product.


Benadryl has also put out an itch relief spray with diphenhydramine hydrochloride, the same ingredient used in allergy medications. The spray coats the itchy area, leaving it cool and kind of waxy. The medication in the spray helps to calm the histamine reaction in the skin and protect it from worsening, and the waxiness is often enough incentive to not scratch. I bought it for $5 at a Canadian Shoppers Drug Mart store.


I spent a month up in Northern Saskatchewan and broke out in tremendous hive-like rashes, covering my thighs, inner arms, outer upper arms, and even some small bumps on my fingers and tops of my hands. I have not been able to determine whether it's a sun-related reaction or a skin sensitivity (like laundry detergent), but I do know that by avoiding both (the sun AND our new laundry detergent), my rash is slowly going away. Because I've dealt with both eczema and hypersensitivity to sunlight, it's tough to determine which is the factor here. Neither reaction has ever been this dramatic.


I hope this is helpful in some regard. Best of luck.

pierrette, Community Member
10/27/11 5:10pm

I have the same thing and my doc has not been able to identify it. Have you had a diagnosis yet? Please let me know if anything has helped.

MomMom, Community Member
12/ 4/11 7:47pm
I found that colloidal oatmeal, first I used it in the bath tub, now I use it also several times a day, and the rash, just as you have described it, has been greatly relieved! Basically, it has disappeared! I found the stuff by accident at The dollar store: only $1 for 5 packets! I also bought oatmeal "soap" for my face, and it has made all my skin so smooth, and best of all, no itch! Now, I found that if I run out of the commercial product, regular uncooked oats, soaked in very hot water (allow to cool), works, too! It's worth a try: I was so miserable, and the dermatologist charged me $200! And the expensive corticostearoid didn't work! Good luck! Reply
Fisherman Jack, Community Member
5/ 3/12 8:51am

Anyone think it might be melanoma or pre-cancer? Have you looked at pics of skin cancer? I had one arm that got a LOT of sun 6 years ago and it has bothered me ever since. I specifically put LOTS of block on that arm and it makes a difference, but I wouldn't be shocked if one day I have to get stuff cut out or at least topical Chemo...

JM, Community Member
7/13/12 2:45pm
It's called brachioradial puritus. Google it. I used all of the creams, lotions, pills, had pieces of skin cut out of my arms, and FINALLY I found a web site that talked about this and it made perfect sense. I went to a orthopedist who confirmed it. I have a herniated disk in my upper spine that is resting on a nerve. This is not dermatological. It's related to your spine and nerves. I have been exercising (including lifting light weights with the machines at the YMCA) and after about 5 months the pain and itching subsided. Ice packs help because ice calms the nerve. I felt as though I had fire ants under my skin and couldn't scratch them away. Reply
itsmekayla, Community Member
3/15/13 12:54pm

I get the same thing. I have no clue, but i can tell you what i use, and it goes away in a few days. I put ANTI~FUNGAL meds on it. works great.


OMB, Community Member
9/26/13 10:47am

Strangely, I've experienced the same thing after I returned to the Caribbean.  I have used hydrocotizone, thinking it was an allergy.  After using an entire tube,  I tried betnovate c in case it were an eczema. I exhausted to hold tube again and that did not work.  I also used an antifungal cream called Clobegen MK.  Nothing worked.  Then I changed my deodorant and the itching stopped slightly, but the redness was still there.  And then I went to natural medicine.  so, i made a poltice with Glory Cedar (Gliricidia sepium) leaves and bingo!, that did the trick.  Try it see whether it will help.  Not sure whether you can find the plant in your area since it grows in frost free climate, but you can also try the soap and see if it helps.

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By Olivia, Community Member— Last Modified: 05/30/14, First Published: 11/13/08