Itching: Another patient commentary

Kidney failure and pruritis

Pruritis was a challenge for me. This chronic itching affected my quality of life, sleep, gave me dry, irritated skin and caused anxiety.  Most people I told about the itchy skin had no idea of its impact.  I have a friend with a liver transplant.  She understood.

My nephrologist was sympathetic and offered a referral to a dermatologist or prescription medication.  I decided against both of those options.  My reasons seem ignorant now but were important to me at the time.  I used topical creams, lotions, olive oil, coconut oil, hydrocortisone cream and antihistamines. I changed soaps, shampoos, and laundry detergents.

Family and friends recommended natural solutions, usually herbs.  I did not take that approach. Others suggested I soak in a cool baking soda bath.  When I had a PD catheter, that wasn’t ideal. Primarily, I focused on diet along.  I watched phosphorus levels in food. I eliminated dairy from my diet. My dietitian tried diligently to help and went so far as to contact manufacturers to get information on phosphorus in their products. Potassium was much easier to regulate on PD than HD but phosphorus level was not.  My phosphorus and PTH levels were elevated. The type of dialysis did not affect my level of scratching.  However, being tied to a machine all-night and stuck in one area did increase the anxiety with itching. 

I chewed my phosphate binders. They tasted lousy, turned my mouth brown, gave me nausea and were very expensive. They were worth trying though.

Itching during daytime was nominal, mostly annoying.  Although, I did have a co-worker tell me several times I was scratching like crazy when concentrating at my desk.  Nighttime was another situation however.  The prime spot at night for itchy skin was behind my knees.  Yes, seriously! Other areas itched but wow area behind knees was severe. The more I scratched, the itchier I became.

 I told my husband that if I died overnight an autopsy would show I died from foot cramps and itching.

There is one night I will never forget. I had significant foot/leg cramps, severe itching behind my knees and intense PD drain pain. I told my husband that if I died overnight an autopsy would show I died from foot cramps and itching. I did manage to control much of my cramping with a home remedy. This was not the case with pruritis.

I need to mention the effect pruritis had on my husband as well. While I was having issues with itching etc. he suffered right along with me and amazingly never complained. He offered to help. Nights could be a stressful time.

Luckily, within two days of my transplant, the skin troubles disappeared. I am now almost two years post-transplant and skin concerns are in the past!

Blog post written by Susan Kjos, who describes herself as 'I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister & friend. I have CKD but it does not define me. I was blessed with a kidney transplant. My life is an incredible ride, and I am lucky to be on it.'

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