I’ve been having trouble sleeping the past few nights. My finger ulcer keeps waking me up. Usually when this happens, I have an infection. But that’s not the case this time. The skin is just too raw on the tip of my right ring finger, but I need to type and do other tasks, and the ulcer keeps getting irritated.
Now, I should be grateful that, at least so far, I don’t need to start antibiotics. I hate taking them. But the good thing about infections, much as they hurt: antibiotics provide significant relief within about 48 hours.
My problem at present is that there’s no quick fix for this particular variant of ulcer pain. It’s like having a headache in my finger. The only cure is time.
Our fingers have an extremely dense concentration of nerve endings. According to a recent article in The Guardian, our fingers have so many nerve endings that our brains actually outsource some neural computations about object orientation and movement to our fingertips.
All of those nerve endings make it possible to distinguish a baby’s cheek from a scruffy beard, stovetop heat from freezer chill, a satin sheet from flannel. When you think about it, the range of our fingers’ neural intelligence is really quite astounding.
That neural density also accounts for why it hurts so damn much when we get a paper cut, or smash our thumbs with a hammer. . .or develop digital ulcers.
The only encouragement I feel right now is that I’ve had two other recalcitrant ulcers in the past few weeks that gave me the same trouble, which are now, thankfully, past the achey stage. I’ve noticed over the years that there is some kind of tipping point in the healing process, when my damaged skin cells seem to wake up and repair themselves in large enough numbers that the pain level recedes. This can happen overnight.
So I’m going to cut this short, give my sore finger a break, take some Ibuprofin and Tylenol (they work differently), redo my bandages, and—I hope—get some sleep. Maybe tonight’s the night my body will work its magic, once again.
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.