I’m melting, melting

Okay, not melting exactly (it’s WAY too cold for melting), but I do feel like I’m falling apart.  Over the past year, I’ve accumulated a number of small-ish health issues: psoriasis, nail fungus, and back pain.  None of them are huge, but they are nagging things that won’t go away, no matter how much I ignore them.

About this time last year, something funky started happening to the fingers on my right hand: itchy, red, very sensitive patches that eventually became swollen.  After a couple of months, when my half-hearted efforts to treat my [self-diagnosed] leprosy failed, I made it to the dermatologist, who, after a very cursory glance, proclaimed that I had eczema, not leprosy, and sent me on my way with a prescription for a topical steroid.

I never really used much of the huge tube of steroid cream, but my symptoms cleared soon after the doctor visit, largely due to the changing seasons (less cold, dry air) and possibly to some improvements in my mental state.  (Eczema and psoriasis are similar in that they are exacerbated by stress, anxiety, etc.)

It’s baaaaaaaacckk!  All good things must come to an end, and with the return of cold, dry winter air came the return of my skin condition.  With a new twist.  After a few weeks of the standard irritated skin on my fingers, I started noticing joint pain in the affected areas.  Matthew already suspected that my skin condition was psoriasis, not eczema, and this new symptom seems to confirm his suspicion.

Not only do I have psoriasis, I have a fun and relatively unusual manifestation — psoriatic arthritis — lucky me!  The joint pain is not constant; some days, I don’t notice this aspect at all, but there have been a couple of pretty bad periods, where I had to turn vegetable chopping duties over to Matthew because it hurt to hold the knife.

Anyway, since treatment of psoriasis and eczema is relatively similar, I’m working on using up that huge tube of steroid cream; applying fancy, expensive petroleum jelly (i.e., Aquaphor) every couple of hours; trying to work on some of the stress reduction stuff; and hoping the spring arrives soon.

Nail fungus
I’d never, ever had nail fungus.  Then, last February, I redeemed a pedicure gift card.  (Note that this was the second, or maybe third, pedicure I’ve ever gotten in my life.  It was likely also the last.)  A few weeks later I noticed an odd spot on the nail of my big toe.

I waited around a bit, hoping that it was a bruise under the nail and would just grow out, but after a couple of months, it became clear that the nail salon had given me a special gift — nail fungus!

Treatment options seem pretty limited, since I’m staying away from the oral anti-fungals.  This leaves topical anti-fungals, [very expensive] laser treatment, or alternate topical remedies.  For now, I’m applying Vick’s VapoRub twice a day, after soaking the toe in warm water (hoping this makes the nail more porous / the treatment more effective).  Like topical prescription anti-fungals, there’s a good chance I’ll have to keep this up daily FOR A YEAR.  Then, maybe, if I’m lucky, my nail will be healthy again.

Ongoing back pain
From October through December, I invested a significant amount of time and money in physical therapy for my back.  I felt like things were headed in the right direction, but I reached a point where I felt like I wasn’t making any more progress.

According to the therapist, the two rotated vertebrae were back in their proper places, and staying there, but I continued to have point pain whenever I pressed on one of the vertebrae.  This didn’t seem to be going away or getting better, and some of the PT exercises seemed to exacerbate it.

I checked myself out of physical therapy, hoping that my spine just needed a bit more time to get used to things being back in their proper places (after all, things had been out of whack for three months before I sought treatment).  But those hopes seem unfounded.

What to do?  More physical therapy (with a different therapist)?  Chiropractic?  (Was going to try chiropractic initially, but had a hard time getting a good provider recommendation.)  I also have not had any imaging done on the area, so I’m wondering about an MRI so we can see what’s really going on in there.

I’m not sure of my next step, but I probably need to do something.  The pain is limiting my physical activity (most activities don’t hurt while I’m doing them, but they lead to increased pain later, so I’ve been avoiding quite a few strengthening exercises) and making me feel old and grumpy.


  1. Have you seen a rheumatologist about your psoriatic arthritis? I have rheumatoid arthritis and have a rheumatologist I really like. I had gone to one who said that it wasn’t bad enough to take any prescriptions, but he wasn’t the one whose knees and hands hurt.

    I resisted taking medication, but it has made a world of difference. I am on one of the first meds they try, methotrexate. I would rather be on nothing, but this started when I was 37 and I want to protect my joints for the rest of a (hopefully) long life. And it is nice to be pain free most days. Only you can decide what is the best decision, but if the pain is affecting your activities, explore all your options. Any chance your back pain is connected?

    Hang in there. Chronic pain is annoying and depressing. And it can feel isolating. Email me if you want to chat more: skheend@gmail.com. Or we could meet up – I’m in the StL area.

    1. Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

      Sarah, so far, the joint pain is limited to just a couple of joints in my fingers. It’s not occurring very often, and ibuprofen helps. It’s a relatively new symptom, so I have yet to talk to any type of doctor about it.

      I don’t think the back pain is related, since I can pinpoint the start of the pain to a specific period of time (a road trip where I spent too much time twisting to tend my son in the back seat). That said, I really don’t know what’s going on with my back at this point, so maybe some form of arthritis is a factor?

      1. It might be worth checking out. I had my first flare-up of joint pain in my fingers when I was about 27, when my son was 18 months old. They tested for RA, but nothing was really definitive. The joint pains went away after a few months and only came back about 10 years later. Then the tests were more definitive.

        I reluctantly started meds about 2 years ago and the difference is amazing. I can exercise, garden, cook and bake without the pain I used to have. I have to take it easy with some activities – kneeling for long periods of time, mostly.

        Let me know if you want the name of the rheumatologist I like, and the name of the one I no longer go to. The one I like is at DePaul, which isn’t exactly close to you, which might be a factor. Hope you get some answers about your back!

  2. Deepa says:

    Sorry to hear about your ailments Melissa. Hope you find the right treatment plan for your back pain. I am sure the weather is a huge contributer to the overall discomfort and hopefully the warm weather will help. In addition to treatment and medication for your back pain, the only thing I can suggest is yoga with breath awareness (pranayama).

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