Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lichens: The Ongoing Adventures of Tree Fungus

For the past couple of weeks I've been pondering what I know of skin diseases. To be perfectly honest about my ignorance, I don't think I knew that there are "skin diseases". Conditions we called them; Ailments, or in a pinch, a skin thing.

No one in my immediate family had acne. My high school boyfriend did but that was in the 80's when acne docs usually said to lay off dairy products, chocolate and pop (here in the north, it's pop, not soda - charmingly pronounced "sodie" by my southern steps). One of my step-daus from my 2nd marriage had acne in the 90's and was given an Rx of antibiotics, but acne was the least of her problems so we didn't really pursue it. She didn't care and preventing her from sniffing trash and eating rotten food were higher on the priority list. Acne was just acne. Teenagers got it and around 19-20, it went away. I only ever met one adult with it, a co-worker friend of mine. She went to a derm for some kind of treatment but we never really discussed it and I never thought of it as a disease. It was just a skin thing.

My mother had eczema. It was really bad when she was a kid but improved with age and some alternative treatments she devised through trial and error. Myself, I'm leery of putting Prep H on my face but hey, whatever works. However, I didn't think of it as a "disease", it was just an annoying condition.

I also had a boyfriend in college with psoriasis. He was so self-conscious that he wore jeans and long sleeved shirts even in 90 degree heat. In fact, I'm not sure I ever saw it and you'd think I would have given the circumstances. I do remember that he got "light treatments" for it when he was back home in Detroit and he once explained to me how that was done. Rather like a vertical tanning bed without the bed. I didn't know that was a disease either, an auto-immune disease no less, just like eczema is an auto-immune disease. Until two weeks ago, I didn't know that about either of them. They were just "skin conditions".

Now I have the tree fungus and it's official. The biopsy came back positive which is no surprise to me given the number of websites I've read in the period of time between the leather punch incident and the letter from the derm. While I appreciate all of the helpful advice from others, useful things like "Would it help if you boosted your immune system?" (um, autoimmune disease, here's yer sign). "Try Stridex, it should help" (not pimples but thanks for playing). "You must have some emotional trauma buried deep in your subconsious. Figure out what that is and I'm sure it will go away"; "You eat too much chocolate", "You've always been too thin, that will cause this type of thing, you know" (I can't even think of a response for those, sarcastic or otherwise). The thoughtful advice is sweet but.....I doubt drinking borax is going to be very helpful.

I've discovered strange little quirks that were never really ascribed to a common cause but which now fall into place under as symptoms of the tree fungus skin. Things like intermittent weird fingernails. They'll be fine for months when suddenly they develop these ridges that run from the cuticle to the nail end. Not really ugly, but strange. The nail on my ring finger will even split up the center along one of these ridges. It's annoying when that happens because I've always really liked my hands, especially my nails, and when one splits or breaks, I have to trim them all down and wait for them to grow back out again. I know, it sounds very girlie of me, but when you have largely unkempt hair, don't wear makeup, dress like a farmer, have some kind of shit on every pair of footwear but one and don't have a shopping fetish, having a fondness for your nails isn't much. Now I know the nail thing is the tree fungus. 'Twould never have occurred to me to correlate the two.

Even stranger, from the time I was 19 or so, I've chewed the inside of my mouth. My first ex used to tease me about it, telling me that I was going to chew a hole through my cheek. I was really compulsive about it but always assumed it was a nervous thing like people who twist their hair. Nope, it's the tree fungus. In my mouth. That explains the derm looking in my mouth which I thought was bizarre given the nasty little bumps were on my feet, legs and arms. I asked hub's nephew, the dentist, if he'd noticed that I have this thing in my mouth and he said it's really common, both the the fact of it being there and the subsequent chewing. Common enough that he didn't think to mention it to me until I asked about it. What's odd to me is that having chewed the inside of my mouth for years, I suddenly stopped sometime in my 30's. I didn't even notice I'd quit until ex hub #1, in a fit of nostalgia, asked if I still did it. I realized that I didn't and hadn't for quite some time. But lo and behold, I started again 6 or 8 months ago. Weird, huh?

The latest development is the fungus seems to be screwing with my teeth, hence the chat with the dentist nephew. In the past two weeks, I've had to have pretty extensive dental work done on a couple of teeth. Not fun since I'd rather have an eye removed with a fork than undergo a dentist's drill. Shots? Annoying but no biggie. The low pitched, slow drill? Rather like a blowfly trapped in a nasal cavity but not overly distressing. That nasty, high pitched, make you want to rip your hair (or the dentist's) out and run away screaming drill; that one's a problem. So drill, drill, pick, pick, x-ray, drill, pick, x-ray, drill....I've had enough of that. The appearance of the tree fungus shortly before the oral problems, and having conferred with my handy family medical people, would lead me to believe that this synchronicity is not coincidental (ugh, there's that dental again). It's the tree fungus. My, my, isn't this fun?
However, I've done yet more reading of sites offered by my step-dau and it would seem that my case isn't nearly as bad as that of others. So I'm not going to bitch about it (much) and will be thankful that it doesn't hurt, isn't eroding the inside of my mouth, isn't causing oral yeast infections and, hopefully, won't require any more root canals. I'll be thankful that I don't have lupus or Crohn's or RA. I'll wear shorts and tank tops as always and ignore any surreptitious looks from strangers. I'll pretend they're admiring my legs instead. There are worse things and luckily, I don't have any of them.


Griffox said...

I chew the inside of my mouth, too. I'm kind of self conscious about it, but the urge is too strong to resist. I'm glad I'm not the only one out there.

Don't worry, I'm not going to offer any advice. Isn't it funny how people feel compelled to offer suggestions as if they alone hold the illusive solution and by their mere suggestion all your problems will be solved.

Naimhe said...

Your mouth biting could be oral LP but not to worry. Most people have the oral kind at some time or another and never have any other type. What makes them chew is the LP causes little ridges that you can't really see unless you're looking for them, but like most things in your mouth, feel really big to your tongue, so you chew on them. No lasting damage; no harm, no foul.

Griffox said...

interesting. That's good to know. Thanks for the info.