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12/21/2009 - Questions and Answers

Rough skin caused by nerves?

By: Mark Castleden

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My grandmother is 94 years old. She told me that her hands feel "sandy" to her, and this bothers her. The "sandy" feeling isn't quite as bad if her hands are clasped shut. I told her that it sounds like a problem with her nerve-endings, but I have never heard of this complaint before. Have you? Could this be caused by a vitamin deficiency? Should she see a doctor specifically for this?

Question

My grandmother is 94 years old. She told me that her hands feel "sandy" to her, and this bothers her. The "sandy" feeling isn't quite as bad if her hands are clasped shut. I told her that it sounds like a problem with her nerve-endings, but I have never heard of this complaint before. Have you? Could this be caused by a vitamin deficiency? Should she see a doctor specifically for this?

Answer

It is clear from what you say that there is nothing wrong with your grandmother's skin, e.g. no roughness or soreness. Therefore the 'sandy' feeling must represent, as you suggest, altered neurosensation. The site of the neurological problem is probably in the centre of her brain, and may be in the thalamus. This sits at the top of what you might call the spinal cord and the brain stem. The thalamus is therefore deep within the brain substance and difficult to get at for surgery. Not surprisingly, because of its central site, it is connected to most of the important parts of the brain and spinal cord.

The problem is unlikely to be due to a vitamin deficiency, and it is most unlikely that there is a treatment for it in a person of your grandmother's age, where the most common diagnosis would be atherosclerosis and perhaps a small stroke. However, it might be wise to consult a neurologist if she is troubled by this condition and you would like it investigated, at least to document the exact cause, or if her symptoms are progressive and others are added.

Created on: 05/31/2000
Reviewed on: 12/21/2009

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