After the birth of my first son in August 2005, I began experiencing severe itching on the tops of my feet. The itching would come and go, and I thought it was due to dry skin. I “put up” with it for a little over 2 years.
After my second son was born in March 2008, the itching on the feet came back. I made sure to use extra moisturizing lotion and thought it was getting better, until May 2008.
I had recently left my job as an Associate Chiropractor and begun the process of opening my own office. Two weeks later, I awoke with a rash on the tops of my feet, my knees, my forearms and hands. The rash was very itchy, and scratching the areas gave little relief. I would scratch until there were small cuts on my skin. I made an appointment with a local dermatologist and was told I was suffering from eczema and given a steroid cream.
I used the cream 4-6 times per day; it helped slightly, to say the least. After 1 month, I returned to the same dermatologist and was given another steroid cream. Her explanation was that I “was stressed with having a newborn and opening my practice” and the rash “probably won’t go away until the stress goes away.” This theory did not settle with me. Being a chiropractor, I know the body can heal itself and that my body should adapt to my “stressful” surroundings.
The second steroid cream didn’t help at all. The rash and itch was horrible and never completely went away. After a few more months, I made an appointment with another dermatologist, who agreed with the first dermatologist: eczema. By this point, I had stopped breastfeeding my son.
For a year, the rash and itching sensations were frequent. After 1 ½ years, I saw a third dermatologist who diagnosed the rash as hives! This dermatologist recommended me to take allergy medication daily and gave me another prescription for a medicated cream.
Eventually, I stopped using all lotions, creams, and medications, and figured I would just live with the rash and the itching. I began changing my wardrobe to hide the rash; I would wear long sleeve tops and pants, even in the summer.
Finally, I made an appointment with an allergist to be tested for any indoor/outdoor allergies. This doctor listened to all my complaints, looked at my legs and arms, and immediately told me that she disagreed with my previous diagnoses. She asked if I had anyone in my family who was diagnosed with celiac disease, and a light bulb went off in my head. My paternal grandmother was diagnosed with celiac in the early 1970s.
The allergist told me I did not need an allergy test; I needed a celiac panel blood test. I left her office and immediately called my primary care physician, who ordered the blood tests. They all came back positive! Next, I saw a fourth dermatologist who performed a skin biopsy, leading to my official diagnosis of dermatitis herpetiformis.
I have been gluten-free for more than 2 years. The rash and itching disappeared within days of changing my diet, and I have not had any outbreaks since! Looking back, I did have slight gastrointestinal symptoms that I always overlooked.
It was a frustrating process, but I’m glad to have discovered the cause of my symptoms. My goal now is to help educate others about celiac disease, including the medical and chiropractic professions!