Wow that title sounds like an old west saga – is it just me or can you see Fess Parker standing over a day-old campfire in his raccoon hat talking to Little Sou as they track the sudden disappearance of Chief Big Feather who was last seen at the top of Itchy Heels Rock and… oh wait. How many of you even know the name Fess Parker? Heh. Yeah that’s what I thought. Ok on to the real post :)

Last week spouse dragged me kicking and screaming to an evening of fireworks at our local mall. The fireworks were scheduled on the river to mark the opening of our shire’s annual week-long fair. Normally I would have been a happy camper to go along but it had rained all night the night before and all day and it was cold. I could not wrap my head around going to an outdoor event in the cold and rain (and mud – bleh) to watch fireworks that may or may not have been visible in the cloud cover and fog. But he really wanted to go so I pulled my socks up and tagged along.

Literally just as we crossed the bridge the rain subsided and by the time we parked the car the clouds and fog were receding. Receding? Evaporating? Well I’m sure there’s a proper word for clouds and fog going wherever it is they go when we suddenly can”t see them but it eludes me at the moment. We walked around the mall for a bit then made our way to the outdoor area designated for the ‘watchers’.

When the fireworks began I tried to plan my camera ‘clicks’ but gave up and just held it on the railing and clicked as fast as I could. Out of 244 ‘clicks’ I ended up with about a dozen decent shots and a half dozen absolutely magnificent shots. The one shown here reminded me of a champagne bottle exploding. I scaled it down to fit this post and will clean it up when I’m ready to enlarge it. But not bad for a dismal day and a now antique digital camera!

One of the reasons I was especially grumbly about this trip across the river was that towards the beginning of last week I had a strange and unpleasant experience that just gradually kept getting worse. Itchy heels. When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I was warned that one day I would experience some tingling in my toes and fingers, that as time went on the long term effects of having too much sugar in my blood would show up as poor circulation, kidney problems, liver troubles, weight gain, failing eyesight and oh brother the list goes on.

So far I’ve been extremely lucky. I have regular check-ups and tests and while my diabetic ‘marker’ is sometimes too high for my doctor’s liking, I have managed to maintain healthy kidneys and liver, good eyesight and so far (knock wood) no numbness of limbs. So when I woke up at 2 am with this mild itching on both of my heels I thought – wow this must be how it starts. It persisted all the next day, though still mild and not too hard to ignore. The second night was worse. It was as if I’d stepped into a pile of itching powder that only affected the heels and I rubbed them against a roughly textured throw rug to make it stop long enough to find something soothing. I had a cream for tinnea (athlete’s foot) and generously applied it to both heels. I slept poorly for a few hours then it started up again making sleep virtually impossible.

I have an appointment with my diabetes doctor set for the first week in June, (the earliest I can get in to see him) and decided to tough it out until then. By Thursday, though, the itching was persisting during the day as well and I really wasn’t keen on putting hot shoes and socks on and itching in public from the warmth. It seems to be the warmth of the blankets and socks that exacerbate the itching. Since Friday afternoon I’ve not been able to sleep for more than just a couple of hours at a time so now I’m dealing with a bit of sleep deprivation on top – not a happy combination eh?

About 4 am this morning, as I sat poised on the edge of my chair at my desk, trying to get relief from the side of an old, worn out Easter basket, fantasizing about what we might have downstairs  in the workshop – you know – like maybe a nice rough woodfile or medium grade sandpaper – it occured to me that I was sitting in front of this generation’s best research tool ever: Google.

I typed itchy heels into the Google command bar and hit enter.  Oh my word. A menu popped up with suggestions: – at night – causes – of feet – I picked plain old itchy heels and hit enter.

1,470,000 hits. You’ve got to be kidding me right? Almost 1.5 million responses! What did we ever do before Google???

So I started down the list, looking for answers or causes or relief – and then I stumbled onto this website and was completely taken aback. An odd site called heelspur.com had placed in a separate file on a separate site this compilation of hundreds of people, all asking  the same question:  My heels itch so bad I can’t sleep is there any way to stop the itching?

From 2003 through 2009, literally hundreds of people with the same complaint had come together almost like a community. First there’s the question, then the realization that other people are out there with the exact same problem, then the realization that nobody knows – anything about this – this what – what do we even call it?

Here’s the common denominator in this thread: Everyone experiences it sometimes in the day but always, always at night within an hour or two after falling asleep. And nothing provides relief. Not a cream or a salve, not washing with bleach or rubbing tea tree oil – sometimes temporary relief comes with each of these things but it never ever lasts and you end up back at square one in only hours or a few days. No one has a rash or discolouration of any type, no build up of callous skin, no allergies to speak of, not new products or foods to rule out. Just this God awful persistent itch.

Here are the differences: The people on this site have been to dermatologists, sports doctors, neurologists, dieticians – some have undergone the expense of MRI’s, others have paid thousands of dollars going to all different specialists and having blood tests, allergy tests, allergy shots, the works. Others have tried homeopathic, chiropractic and accupuncture. Some completely change lifestyles. One gentleman was sure it was something he’d picked up at a gym and he stopped going for his workouts. One man thought it was from wearing shoes and socks everyday and another thought it was from going barefoot. One woman had her feet scraped often thinking it was a bacteria that got under the calloused parts of her feet. Another woman had it only on the balls of her feet and not the heels at all but the itching was identical to what everyone was describing. A few people said it happened to only one heel and not the other.

One man says he keeps a grass welcome mat under his side of the bed so when it wakes him at night he can just dig in his heels and rub and rub until the itching stops, hopefully long enough to get back to sleep.

And these are all different people with different lifestyles. Athletes, non-athletes, fat people, skinny people, vegetarians, hot dog fans, diabetics, non-diabetics, men and women alike aged between 20 and 70, in different cultures in different countries all experiencing the exact same dilemma.

I can’t adequately describe the sensation. The itching is maddening. It is all encompassing. You think about nothing else but ways you might try to stop the itching. It is a completely insane physical complaint.

In reading all the ways people have tried to deal with this ridiculously sounding crisis, one man said he tried some Ibuprofen and it seemed to give him some relief. Well I have Ibuprofen in my medicine cabinet and it sounded a lot saner than the poor woman who deliberately went to a public swimming pool once a month to scrub her feet hard against the coarse surface of the chlorine-covered pool floor – so I got a glass of water and took one tablet. Still itchy. About 30 minutes later I took a second. Thirty minutes after that I took a third and within ten minutes the itching was subsiding. By 6 am I was crawling back into bed hoping for at least two hours sleep before it started up again…

Spouse woke me up around 1:30pm. I opened my eyes and waited for the itch. It wasn’t there. All day long I have waited for the itch amd all day long it’s been gone. I don’t know for how long, but I will take one tablet at bedtime from now until my doctor appointment in June. I don’t hold any hope for being told what this mysterious itchy heel thing is, but I will mention it to him anyway and show him the website. Six years of online questions with no medical authority ever once stepping in to give an answer or solution. Too weird.

This is the link to the comments.  It’s worth a few minutes scanning to see the amount of total frustration shared by all these people and how some of them came togetgher to try and solve a problem nobody else seemed able to solve. The commenters slowly evolve into an entire community who in turn welcome newcomers who came online to get answers, only to find there were only more people with the same question. Frustrating, of course, but there’s also a great deal of relief in the simple discovery –  you’re not alone.

For all the things the internet does wrong, once in a while it does something really, really right. Kudos to the developers of search engines and the programmers who have made it possible for total strangers around the globe to click a button, browse a menu and immediately jump into a conversation that could improve their quality of life.

Here are a few of the better fireworks photos from last week. Click each to enlarge – feel free to share :)

     

============ UPDATE ============
07 April 2012

Every couple of months I notice that this post attracts a new comment from someone who (like the rest of us Googled in quiet desperation looking for a cure.So because there are still people searching for answers to this ridiculously irritating yet medically-unpublished condition I thought I’d take a moment (while my arm is healing from having been broken in January and I’m retraining myself to type with two hands and use the mouse without screaming) to bring you all up on my personal progress/experience. I’m also adding it to my current folder so it doesn’t get dropped from a search engine.

I’m not sure any of the techniques/herbs/medications accomplished anything to be honest. Almost everything I tried gave an illusion of granting relief temporarily but none for any substantial amount of time. I purchased a roughly-textured doormat and kept it by my bed but while I got relief, the skin on the bottoms of my feet began to suffer.

Eventually I purchased a thickly-shagged bath mat with a rubber no-slip bottom and that did the trick.
There was just enough scruffy texture to satisfy the itch but not enough to break the skin. It was enough to let me sleep – which is what I needed to recover the most. Without sleep the rest of your mind and body fall apart and then nothing goes well.

A week after writing this post I met with my GP who happens to also hold credentials in dermatology. He was flummoxed. He made phone calls to other specialists on my behalf – and no one knew what I was on about. My doctor did advise, however, to never take more than 1200mg of Ibuprofen per day, (6 x 200  mg tablets) and then only for short periods of time, never prolonged periods. The itching returned just days after I’d begun taking it so I gave it up easily.

Then, sometime in late June, probably just around a month after originally writing this post, the itching came to a full stop and never – never once – returned.

No explanation. No cure. The mysterious itching that had taken over my life simply stopped and never came back.

My advice to anyone seeking an answer is this:  When it itches,  scratch it. Not so hard the skin breaks, but just until there’s this sort of almost burning sensation. Like you’ve generated heat, just like the heat you get from rubbing two sticks together when attempting to build a campfire. That ‘just-before-it-becomes-unbearable’ b it of heat seems to be the signal that all the itching is going to stop for a bit. Take advantage of that. Get some sleep. With any luck it will eventually just stop for you too.

Oh and complain to your doctor. The more doct0rs who9 hear about this from their patients, the better chance we all have for someone in the medical profession to sit up and take notice – and find some decent remedies!

My thanks to all the commenters – along with my sincerest sympathies. This is not a club any of us wanted to join, eh?

 

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