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I Keep Feeling “Prickly Heat”—Is This a Common Side Effect of Chemotherapy?

Many cancer patients experience physical changes that catch them off guard. They may wonder if these effects are directly related to the chemotherapy treatments they receive. In some circumstances, cancer treatments do affect patients through various side effects, and prickly heat is a common complaint. This condition is discussed in more detail below. 

What is Prickly Heat? 

Prickly heat is a condition resulting from chemotherapy where a person experiences an itchy or painful rash on their skin. It is referred to as a “prickly” due to the mildly unpleasant pricking sensations that come from the ailment. 

What Causes Prickly Heat? 

Prickly heat is caused by sweat gland blockage due to the constriction of pores. When sweat cannot escape the body, it builds up between layers of skin and creates pressure on the dermis and epidermis. This, in turn, can lead to the itchy and painful sensations mentioned above. The surface may also manifest physical changes such as inflammation, redness, and heat retention due to sweat buildup. Additionally, small bumps or blisters may form on the surface of the affected skin. 

How Long Can Prickly Heat Last? 

Some patients deal with prickly heat conditions months after their treatment has come to an end. The physical symptoms and sensations associated with the condition also come and go at various times throughout the day. Many patients report the condition worsens when they are overheated. 

Tips for Dealing with Prickly Heat 

While there's no way to ensure the elimination of prickly heat, there are many things an individual can do to manage its effects. The tips below have proven useful for many people experiencing this condition.


* Avoid Overheating 

While not always feasible, it's advisable for those dealing with prickly heat to avoid situations that can lead to overheating. Remaining in air-conditioned facilities during the hottest part of the day can be beneficial for patients. Avoidance of prolonged sun exposure, hot tubs, and saunas can help fight the condition.


* Use Soothing Anti-Itch Ointments 

Over-the-counter medications designed to treat skin rash could help control the symptoms of prickly heat. While they won't address the underlying cause, these ointments can provide temporary relief from discomfort.


* Wear Light and Breathable Clothing 

Light-colored and breathable fabrics can help keep a person stay cool when they're outdoors. Additionally, breathable fabrics allow moisture to evaporate without affecting the condition of the skin.


* Gently Exfoliate the Skin 

Gentle exfoliation may provide sweat glands the openings they need to function in a typical fashion. When sweat is released from the body, the sensation of prickly heat may lessen and become less frequent.

At Medical Arts Radiology, we understand that facing side effects of chemotherapy can be unnerving. We are here to provide support, education, and access to proper diagnostic services. Please contact us for information on essential screenings and diagnostic tools that could benefit you.

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