June 28, 2008

The Itch that wouldn't go away. A New Yorker story about the science behind itchiness.

This story made me both itchy and afraid to scratch. Parts are rather horrifying, but on the whole it's really interesting. -- via

  • The story seems to promise resolution, and then leaves us dangling. She had scratched through her skull during the night—and all the way into her brain. I don't believe it. If you were to scratch through your skull, the flow of blood and bits of flesh would alert you long before green pus was dripping out of your brain. In fact, your finger muscles would be screaming, and frankly I think your fingernails would be gone before your skull gave way. That's just her cover story. In reality, I guess she used a drill with an abrasive wheel on her head, or something similar. The sad thing is, doctors who are stupid enough to believe such a story are not likely to be able to diagnose or treat the real problem.
  • They debate this in the comments on the BoingBoing post, yeah, and don't come to any real conclusion. Could the shingles or other AIDS related illness cause her bone to weaken?
  • Hm, well shingles is a resurence of long dead chicken pox viruses, which zombie into affecting spinal nerves with itching, burning red spots which follow a nerve and will respond to such salves as Zoxtrix. (Yeah, yeah, there may be better, newer stuff available. but my experience dates back to the late nineties when I spent a couple of weeks getting rid of the stuff.) I suppose it may show up in AIDS symptoms, but it"s not specific to AIDS.
  • Pleg: She said she did this over a period of time in her sleep, with hair coming out first and raw spots. Given that the docs had to confine her arms with straps, which she fought continually, I am inclined to wonder if it isn't accurate. Bone can be abraded over time. I know of a documented case of a mental patient chewing her arms and wrists to the point they bled to death, and the bones were gnawed also. She did it because of a continual crawling under the skin that she had previously tried to cut out with a hunting knife. How weird that people can do these things to their bodies. Weird things happen in the brain. But scratching hives sure does feel good. I can almost imagine an itch that would drive you crazy.
  • After walking in the Minnesota low lands yesterday, around a half dozen of the "10 thousand lakes," this makes me wonder if it's possible to entirely scratch off a mosquito welt in one's sleep.
  • It's the Itchy and Scratchy show!
  • Strangely enough because of this article... I now have re-learned the name for the "weird ass disease" I've had for a bit... Polycythemia vera... My Dr. asked me a couple years ago to get tested a few more times to determine the seriousness of this, but I've ignored it until now... (I usually have abrasions on my legs from itching too much..)
  • Yeah, I didn't believe this story either.
  • My grandfather had Polycythemia vera, Debaser. (He had a weird, long journey of people thinking he had leukemia, or strokes, etc. etc. before he was correctly diagnosed.) I guess he had a pretty bad case, because at first he had to be bled to reduce his red blood cell count (it looked like he was donating blood - I always went along for the juice and cookies, and as a result was always fine with needles). Then he took medicine for it. I think it can cause some bad things if bad enough and left untreated, so it might be worth your while to get tested :) Just my 2 cents.