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Serious Medical Question About My Wife - Desperate For An Answer


Super Bowl MVP
Apr 1, 2011
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Virginia Beach, VA
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My wife over the years has had lower back problems and occasional neuropathy type symptoms in her legs and arms from time to time, but she's never had any major medical issues. Because she has a degenerative disk condition in her lower spine, she has been in pain management for about 4 years. During that time, she has been on Percocet for most of that time, 3-4 a day. I only mention all this, because I don't want to leave out any detail that could be important or a possible cause of what's going on with her. She also has PCOS, which apparently is pretty common, but the only thing they do to treat that is keep her on IUD birth control. Her medication list that she has been on for 4 years is Percocet, 800mg Motrin and Neurontin. For the past year, Prozac and Adderall have been added, and less than a year ago, she was also put on Zanaflex.

I don't know if any of this stuff is related, so I will explain all of it. About 2 years ago, she suddenly started having migraines so severe that they required her to be hospitalized for treatment. This lasted for a month or so, where she had them every few days. They went away with no further treatment just as suddenly as they started. About a month after they stopped, she started waking up every day with severe pain and swelling in her hands. Over the course of the day, it would get better, but first thing in the morning it was horrible.

Fast forward to November of last year. Her leg was itching one day, and she went to scratch it. Suddenly, a very large area of redness spread and engulfed most of her arms, legs, chest and back. It was so hot that it was giving off heat, and it would itch severely. Everywhere that she would scratch would welt up. She would take Benadryl, put aloe with lidocaine on it, and nothing would help. This would last for 1-2 hours, then vanish. Gradually, it has gotten to be something that happens every day, sometimes multiple times. We thought it was something in the house triggering a reaction, but nothing about our environment has changed for several years. We have no new bedding or furniture, we have always used dye free soaps and detergents, none of us wear cologne or perfume, she hasn't changed anything as far as makeup and stuff goes, everything is exactly as it has been for several years. The itching triggers at various times of the day, and diet seems to have no correlation with the outbreaks. The itching will start anywhere from her scalp to her foot to her leg to her shoulder, and within seconds of her scratching the itch, it's nearly a full body explosion of red, itching, burning skin. It's horrific to watch, and I feel helpless while she sits there frustrated and on the verge of tears over it.

More recently, in the past month, she has started having severe asthma attacks. It started out only happening first thing in the morning, then at night and in the morning, then randomly. They gave her a prescription for an inhaler and a nebulizer machine to use when the attacks happen, but it's exhausting mentally for both of us, and physically for her. For the itching, the doctors have tried various creams and pills that have done absolutely nothing. The only time she had any relief was when they put her on Prednisone for a week. The symptoms went nearly completely away during that time. But the first day she didn't have it anymore, she was right back to where she started.

This has gotten me worried to the point I stay sick with worry over it, because doctors are stumped, and I feel helpless. She's miserable and there doesn't seem to be an answer. All of her blood work has come back normal, no treatments have done anything but the Prednisone (which they can't keep you on), and it seems to be getting worse.

Does anyone here have any idea at all what could possibly be the cause of this? It also isn't just localized to our house, because she had it happen when she was driving my dad's truck one time, and it happened when she was in school one night. So it doesn't appear to be environmental, but we aren't 100% sure. I just want to know for her sake and my sanity what could possibly be causing this. There are no bites, no spots, no rash looking bumps or scales or anything, just bright red flaming hit and itching skin that swells if you scratch it. Followed by asthma attacks that seem to be getting progressively worse. We are desperate for any help in finding out what this is. So far our regular doctor and a Dermatologist are stumped.
Sorry to hear about this Nobody, I can't imagine the frustration you and your wife are going through with this. All I can say is continue to press your physician about this and see if there is another specialist they can refer you to who might be able to offer more specialized help. I hope you guys get this figured out asap.
Since I am an insomniac, I have been putting my powers to good use. I have stayed up till 3-4am every night looking for an answer. I found a study done 20 years ago on the long term use of ibuprofen and various other anti-inflammatories, antispasmodics, and muscle relaxers. Although the findings weren't conclusive and no follow up was ever done, it appeared that several of the test subjects developed what appeared on the surface to be autoimmune type symptoms or severe allergies. Come to find out, the long term use of these (she has been on these almost daily for 4 years) can in rare case cause granulomas to develop that in turn can cause your body's natural histamine response to go nuts. So for shits and giggles I told her to try cutting out the Zanaflex and Motrin for a few days, and in the past two days her itching outbreaks have gone from 2-3 times a day to completely nonexistent. What hasn't changed is she still seems to be having asthma attacks, although not as frequently. Hopefully, it's just working its way out of her system and that will improve as well.
This is something you should bring up with your physician, preferably before advising her to change any more medication dosages. With the study in hand I'd ask the physician if your wife should be referred to an endocrinologist or other specialist.
I was gonna suggest that she stop taking some of that stuff. It seems to my uneducated brain that some of those things combined could cause reactions.

I remember that my ex wifes grandfather used to take 20 some pills a day, there is no way they were not reacting with each other or counter reacting. Remember doctors just practice medicine..... Good luck, and I say keep up the internet searches to see if other people have had similar issues.
I cant help with a diagnosis, but know that I will be praying hard that you find the answers you need. I'm so sorry she is going through this tough time.
So the itching fits have stopped completely. Not even a hint of a flare up. But now, she's having two asthma attacks a day instead of one every other day. I thought the itching and asthma attacks were related, but now I'm not too sure. We've spent hundreds replacing filters with fancy filters, and cleaning the ducts out, but so far it hasn't helped. We did an air quality test for mold that came back negative, so I don't know. Maybe it's not in the air?
I could be wrong, but that doesn't sound like asthma to me...bronchospasm, maybe, but you don't usually see folks having multiple 'asthma attacks' in a day...Sure it's not panic attacks or something?
has anything in the climate changed?
In Virginia Beach, the climate changes by the minute. Especially this time of year. Just in the last two weeks, we've had heavy snow, near 80 degree temperatures, flooding rains, and single digit temps. So the climate has been crazy.

has anything in her diet changed?
Not a bit. We don't even change the brands of food products we buy.

[/QUOTE]has anything in her life stress or lack of changed?[/QUOTE]Nope. She's a grad student, but she's been a grad student for over a year. Her classes actually seem to be getting easier, not harder. The kids are both behaving better, doing great in school, and I'm a lot let stressed. So if anything, her stress level has dropped significantly.

I could be wrong, but that doesn't sound like asthma to me...bronchospasm, maybe, but you don't usually see folks having multiple 'asthma attacks' in a day...Sure it's not panic attacks or something?
I've been telling her the same thing for a while, she just insists it's asthma attacks, because the nebulizer helps. But I had asthma attacks as a kid, and I always got severe wheezing with it, which she hasn't gotten. It's more like she seems to be struggling to get a breath in, and she is going through severe coughing fits like the kind you get when your upper respiratory area gets irritated.

I took her to a highly rated dermatologist today. He said she has something called dermatographism, but he said it's nearly impossible to find the trigger if you haven't changed anything. He gave her some creams and pills and said to come back in six weeks. He said he was going to look into the research I told him about with the Motrin and Zanaflex, because it intrigued him and he hadn't heard about it. Also, he doesn't think it's asthma either, and thinks it's also just a horrible coincidence and completely unrelated. So now we're back to trying to figure out what the breathing thing is all about.

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