Saturday, December 10, 2011

Golfer's vasculitis

During the summer I was in Italy, on three separate occasions I developed these angry purplish-red plaques on my legs after spending a day walking for hours in the heat. They did not itch or were painful. They were very ugly and it was so warm there, I could not conceal them by wearing long pants. They faded after one or two days the first two times I had them but after spending 8 hours walking in Rome in nearly 100 degree heat, the plaques lasted for almost a week. I wish I took pictures.

I was puzzled about the cause. I have had prickly heat before but it looked different, it itched, and usually was on my arms. I thought maybe I had walked in poison ivy as it likes to grow in blackberry patches which I certainly went through on my cross country jaunts. But this stuff didn't itch and it was confined to my legs. Many of my fellow students complained about weird insect bites. Small transparent things that would attack at night. One girl had a severe allergic reaction to them and could barely see. My roommates would douse their bodies with insecticide but I never seemed to be bitten. Others had plug-in bug killing spray. I really did not want to be exposed to that. The only bugs that bothered me were the flies. Fortunately they only were around in the daylight. They would get me up in the morning for my just after dawn runs. I also considered contact dermatitis. Maybe something was leaching out of my shoes? But my feet had no lesions on them nor were my legs scratchy or swollen.

Once I returned home, I matched up my lesions on the Internet with those of 'vasculitis'. Reading about it in my Merck Manual, it is defined by the inflammation of blood vessels. However the causes listed are all very dire. I was fairly healthy, excepting for the cancer brewing unbeknownst to me just below the surface. I was just recovering from hypothyroidism due to the many calcium antacids I was gobbling interfering with my synthroid. I had been taking high doses of ibuprofen to deal with the arm pain from breaking it. That shredded my stomach lining.  The hypothyroidism made me especially puffy and running very difficult but as I recovered, running was becoming easier even in the mountains. I never had had circulatory problems or even varicose veins so I was puzzled by how easily my blood vessels became inflamed.

It turns out that this condition is very common and not  serious. By the time most patients can schedule a visit with a dermatologist, it disappears. Or they go through extensive allergy testing  with no clear cause. Only recently it has been described as 'golfer's vasculitis' due to it occurring in older golfers. Another term for it, is Three Day Walker's vasculitis as many women walking for the cure show up at the medical tent with it. Yet another term for it is "Disney World" Rash as it appears on people unused to heat and walking for hours and they assume it's due to some allergic reaction to the surroundings.

As I was trolling the internet looking for a photo that a fellow student took that I was in showing my ugly rash (which I finally found, see below), I came across this video that another student took of our experience.

After our Rome trip, others in our group had less severe cases of it so it wasn't just me. I have run marathons and never have seen this on my legs nor has it occurred since.

This is almost a week since I got the lesions still visible on one of my calves

It is so pretty outside but so cold. Cold doesn't bother me but the resultant ice does. I finally was able to go out yesterday after accepting that it would never be above freezing. I felt fine.

No comments:


Blog Archive