There are multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms that people can see and that we can explain. There are also invisible symptoms that can be harder to explain — except, of course, when those invisible symptoms become painfully visible.
Then there are phantom symptoms, where we “feel” the sensation of such things as bugs crawling or water dripping on our skin, when in fact there’s nothing there.
I’ve recently had a go with a phantom sensation that had a real effect.
Pruritis, Otherwise Known as ‘Itching’
Some members of our Life with MS blog community have mentioned pruritis — also known as the MS Itch — as a symptom of their MS. This isn’t an itch caused by anything external; rather it’s caused by yet another short circuit of our central nervous system wiring.
I’d never experienced MS-related pruritis before, and I didn’t like it when I did. Neither did my skin.
I was watching our county football team in the provincial championship match when Caryn noted that I was occasionally rubbing and then scratching my right forearm. She pointed it out to me, asking if I’d been bitten or something, but I hadn’t.
Like pain from no injury or many of the other MS sensory symptoms, there was no obvious cause for this itch. But scratching didn’t stop it, nor did topical over-the-counter treatments.
I tried to rub more than scratch, because I didn’t want to scrape myself raw. And then I just tried to let it go … until the next morning.
One Itch Begets Another
As I woke, I found that my arm was itching again, but in a different way than the previous day. When I looked at it I realized why.
My phantom MS itch — or rather my response to it — had left a patch of my arm covered with a pattern of tiny dots of scab that, taken together, looked like a child’s drawing of a map of the British Isles (though the Hebrides were a bit misplaced and quite out of proportion).
This patch of scabs was itching “for real” now, while the surrounding area still offered the MS itch. The interesting thing for me as I did my morning MS inventory was that I could tell the difference.
The North Atlantic area of abraded skin itched in a tightened-skin, trying-to-heal, “something caused this” itch. But the area around it felt more like a muscular sensation. It was as if the fascia beneath my skin was what I wanted to rub. It was something I might even put onto the MS pain spectrum now that I think about it.
Hoping Awareness Will Help Me Stop Scratching
And think about it I will. Now that I know what this phantom symptom feels like relative to a real itch, I hope to be more aware of how I respond to it. Fingers crossed that this awareness keeps me from spotting the bedsheets with drops of blood.
Caryn would appreciate that.
If you have stories to share of pruritis, the MS phantom itch, leave them on our Facebook page.
Wishing you and your family the best of health.
Last Updated: 7/12/2017
The above information is not medical advice, for reference only / from : Michelle