Thursday, September 08, 2011

A Pair of Ragged Claws

When I was about 11, I was at a Toronto Blue Jays game with my dad and my grandmother, and noticed a weird set of bubbles under the skin of my hands. Over the next few days, I noticed that the tiny blisters would swell whenever I washed my hands with warm water, and that when I showered, they would often burst, leaving me with scaly hands afterwards.

When I showed them to my mother, she promised to ask around at work for me.1 One of the doctors told her that it was an eczema commonly caused by too-frequent hand washing of dishes. "Don't worry, though," she told me sarcastically. "I told him that wasn't possible for you." Our family doctor proscribed a cortisone cream for me, which never made a difference to the eczema, which would appear, burst open, and slowly heal off and on.

Many years later, the internet was kind enough to give me a real name for it: Dyshidrotic Eczema, so called because it was once thought to be associated with excess sweat. I learned that cortisone treatments were largely useless for this, and that not much could be done for it other than to care for the scaly skin after. I learned that mine is atypical, because mine is worse in the winter2 than in the summer, and I also learned that mine is relatively mild compared to what some other people have.3

Over the last month, I have had two or three large flare ups of my dyshidrosis,4 which is unusual for me because it's usually much calmer in the summer. Today I woke up with blisters across the tips of a few of my fingers, as the blisters had spread up from the sides of my fingers. A few rounds of dishes and the cracks began to show.

Since becoming a knitter, I've become extra aware of my hands and how I treat them. Rough, cracked skin can snag delicate yarn as it slips through my fingers. Conversely, minimally treated yarns often retain their own lanolin, which gives moisture back to my hands. I've been knitting primarily with fine yarns (fingering/sock weight) for the last few months, and I'm yearning to move up to a worsted or aran yarn now that the weather is cooling off.

How do you take care of your hands?

1 One side effect of having a mother who was a nurse in one of Ontario's vastly overused hospital emergency rooms during the 1990s is that you are totally paranoid about seeking medical attention because you continually suspect that you are "not sick enough" to warrant taking up time and space at the ER.
2 Likely because it's so flippin' dry up here in NBRC.
3 Seriously. Check out the pics at the link above--knowing how painful mine can be for how minor it is, I can only imagine how these people feel.
4 Yep, mine is stress-related.

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