Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Exfoliative Keratolysis

The skin on my feet has always, always peeled, often to the point where they would bleed from the skin becoming so thin.  It's crazy. It's as if the skin is dry and cracks and peels, but it's not from dryness. Today, it's mostly on my heels, but, is starting to happen at the balls of my feet and my toes.

Several years ago (I guess if I thought about it, it would have started about 15 years ago, but got chronic about 5 years ago), I started to get small dry blisters on my hands, and those would tear and peel. It's like when you have sunburn, and the skin comes off in sheets, but on my hands it's very thick sheets. It started on one of my index fingers and it's now happening on both index fingers, thumbs, and a couple other finger tips. In June, my hands were so raw they were bleeding, and when it's that bad the fingers are swollen.  It gets this way a few times a year, but I'll admit I haven't kept a log, so I don't know if it's worse at certain times of year.  It does happen year round, so it's not just winter dry skin or anything like that.

So, while we were in Canada in June, my hands were pretty bad. I stopped and talked to a pharmacist, who suspected eczema. She suggested no more soap, just waterless cleanser (Cetaphil, store brand, etc) followed immediately by moisturizer. She said I could use hydrocortizone, but since it thins the skin, and my skin is already thinned from the peeling, not to use anything like that more than once a day, maybe even just a couple times a week. So I got some Cetaphil (which I use occasionally already) and have been trying to clean/moisturize as often as I can. It makes my hands nice and soft and they don't hurt as much when I use it, and my hands are so much better now than they were in June.

So, today my heels are peeling like crazy and I have spots on my hands ready to peel. My inner OCD goes nuts with this, which doesn't help at all. I drink water like crazy, and all winter I slather my feet in Aquaphor (sometimes combined with bacitracin or hydrocortizone cream) and wear socks. It sort of helps, but not 100%.

So I was doing some of my own research and came across a discussion where people talked about their peeling extremities, and it was exactly what I go through!  It led me to looking up exfoliative keratolysis (EK).  I've never come across anything remotely like what my hands and feet look like until now!  It turns out it's a common skin condition, and my little dry blisters which crack and peel are the cornerstone symptom.  Sure is better than some of the other things I found the first time I researched "peeling fingers and feet". 

I am still going to try to visit a dermatologist and see if they know about EK and what kinds of treatment options they can offer.  In the meantime, I have found some topical treatments and suggestions in dietary changes which I will look into further.  It's just such a great relief to finally feel closer to knowing what the heck is going on with my skin!!