I have a small pharmacy’s worth of wound care supplies in our bathroom closet. Various types of gauze, bandages, dressings, ointments, tapes, heating pads, you-name-it, it’s there, the cumulation of decades of experimenting. For my very sensitive finger ulcers, I’ve found one particular brand of bandages that work best—Coverlet. They make a range of sizes, and my favorites are 3/4″ x 3″. They come in boxes of 100, and I order 10 boxes at a time.
Usually, I manage to order more before I run out. But not this past week. I haven’t needed to use as many bandages daily since my hand surgery (fewer ulcers because all the trouble spots have been amputated), so I’ve gotten a bit lax about reordering. I also mistakenly thought I still had some left, because the boxes were stacked on top of some other Coverlet boxes of different sized bandages that I rarely use.
Oops. Big time.
The issue is that these bandages are made of very soft fabric; I have never found anything like them in stores. They breathe and are comfortable all day long. As soon as I realized I had used my last bandage on Friday morning, I ordered another set of 10 boxes and grudgingly paid a steep rush fee. But the soonest I could get a guaranteed delivery was by this Tuesday.
What to do? I spent about a half hour online, researching fabric bandages. Fortunately, I found some decent substitutes at Target. Years ago, I used to buy generic fabric bandages from CVS or Target, but then they changed the specs and the fabric was coated with some kind of stiffening compound that rendered them useless for me. It seems that, in years since, these generics are no longer coated. The offending substance apparently was Latex, which many people are allergic to.
A couple of small boxes of the generic bandages did the trick over the weekend, although my thumb ulcer was not terribly happy with the alternative; the surrounding skin seemed more irritated. Fortunately, my shipment arrived early, on Monday morning, just after I had finished getting ready for the day. It was well worth the extra time to remove the substitute dressings and replace them with my good bandages. Immediately, my thumb felt better.
Before I stored the boxes in the closet, I marked the bottom two: “Second to last/Reorder” and “Last Box!”
Sometimes, the smallest details make the biggest difference.
Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.
Laura Simmons says
I love your blogs – thank you!
I would like to see a YouTube video of you taking care of your ulcers, wrapping them in morning and again at night, and the care between. What do you do for a shower? I can feel mine deteriorating as I wash my hair, and I’ve resorted to blow drying my hands whenever I wash them to try to get the water from between the nail and the ulcer, where a little cave has formed.
I’ve had them on the tips of fingers for a few years, but now they’re starting on my knuckles. Is there any way to prevent them, or slow them? Thank you for any advice you can offer.
Evelyn Herwitz says
Thanks, Laura! I’ll have to think about a video. Interesting idea.
To answer your questions . . . I don’t do any special protection for my ulcers in the shower, at present. I always remove my bandages when they’re really soaked so I don’t tear the skin, then gently wash them and rinse in the shower, pat dry, so they get a good cleaning. However, when they’re infected and very sore, this can be tricky and requires a very gentle treatment. I favor Dove soap and Cetaphil (generic version is fine, too) as the most comfortable.
I can envision your issue with ulcers under nails. I no longer have long enough nails for this to be an issue, but your hair dryer trick sounds like a good one, as long as it’s not too hot and dries out the skin too much.
Regarding knuckles . . . best approach is to catch them soon. These have been my worst ulcers, along with ulcers in nail beds. When they get deep, they are very tricky to manage. I have used Aquafor ointment and an alginate dressing (to manage moisture and provide extra padding) with the Coverlet bandages for years, but the one word of caution is to use only the least amount of ointment that will keep the ulcer moist as it heals. If you use too much, it can cause the skin to macerate. My preference is to change my dressings when I get up and before I go to bed. I was once advised by a wound specialist that this was too frequent and to only change them daily, but my experience is that skin deteriorates if I only change once every 24 hours.
Bottom line: if you have access to a wound care clinic, ask their advice. Or seek advice from a dermatologist with expertise in scleroderma. They can help assess your unique situation and recommend the best approach for you. Good luck!!