Allergic to… everything

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K jokes that I must be an alien because I’m allergic to practically everything on the planet. When I was a baby, I developed asthma. I was obviously still quite sickly because then the doctors figured out I was allergic to pets as well – and all the other regular allergen-inducing elements like grass, dust, house mites, pollen, people, walls, TV, water and being alive. Okay okay I’m exaggerating a bit, but I was a pretty allergic kid, and I continue to be a pretty allergic adult.

Often when I emerge from my (piping hot) showers, I’ll have a rash on my face, neck and upper body, a bit like itchy bites. If I swim in the sea, my body breaks out in tiny red dots from head to toe – tiny, raised red spots that take anything from thirty minutes to a couple of hours to disappear. Friends, unable to contain their amazement/mirth, have even photographed it.

When I visit my sister, she gives me an allergy tablet as soon as I arrive, because they have two dogs and within minutes I’m a sneezing, snotty mess. Right now, as I type this, I look like I’m deep in the throes of influenza – the kind you read about in Chaucerian tales, which wiped out thousands of people because of poor sanitation and rats and the fact that no one ever bathed (I swear I bath). My eyes are red and puffy and I have thick dark circles below them. I have no idea why this is – I simply started sneezing a few hours ago and haven’t stopped. I did open the windows of our apartment, and outside there are some trees, so it could be that. A cat could’ve walked past our front door. A cat could’ve thought about walking past our front door. It could be any one of a million things.

My research into autoimmune disease, and the time spent talking to nutritionalists, has made me realise that many people with IBD or other types of autoimmune diseases often display many allergies/intolerances, and also may exhibit symptoms of more than one autoimmune condition. For me, it’s asthma, eczema/psoriasis (mild and never properly diagnosed) and dry eyes – and of course ulcerative colitis. I’ve read many blogs posts by people who also have multiple autoimmune conditions so it seems to be pretty common. Oh and I’m lactose intolerant (and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few more as well).

I’m not trying to draw any conclusions  – you’ve got the Google doctors and scientists for that. I’m more just musing out loud. And wondering how the hell I’m going to get it together to look half-presentable for the show tonight. My favourite drag queen can’t see me looking like I’m coming off a 36-hour heroin binge.

Quick-fix solutions for puffy, panda eyes?? Eeeep!

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If you have IBD, you may have other health issues too

Last night I wrote a piece about my ulcerative colitis – or more to the point, what I think precipitated its onset. It’s a long, miserable story about a horrible man and an abusive relationship, and I’ll post it here at some point when I feel like depressing the hell out of you all 🙂

Anyway, it got me thinking about two of my other health issues, one of which started during the same relationship, and the other which I’ve had almost all my life.

‘Psoriasis’

When I was 25, I suddenly became covered in scaly red spots, which were about 5-10mm in diameter. They covered my legs and stomach, and I also had some on my arms and torso. It took me a few months to have them checked out (I have NO idea how I was not more concerned that I had spots covering my body for months!), and the dermatologist diagnosed psoriasis. Or as I like to say, ‘psoriasis’. I was DEVASTATED. I Googled it and foresaw a future riddled with scales and raw, unsightly patches of skin; flaking scalp and oozing sores.

He prescribed lotions and potions that cost the earth – lots of coal-tar concoctions – which kinda-sorta helped. The major outbreak cleared up, but the spots never disappeared altogether. To this day, I have between 10 and 20 on my body at any given time. They are mostly on my legs, but right now I also have two on my butt, some on my ribs and a few on my back and arms. They look like this:

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But the point is that it’s surely not psoriasis. A few years after my ‘diagnosis’, my sister went to see him about a similar skin condition, and he must’ve pulled my file out too. He mumbled something to her about having probably ‘misdiagnosed’ me, and to tell me that maybe it was just eczema actually. I must just say that we have many excellent doctors in South Africa, but he wasn’t one of them!

This also highlights the danger of diagnosing a patient too soon, or without enough evidence. I was inconsolable at the diagnosis, and now look: I’m no longer covered in spots, and while they do itch and irritate me a bit, it’s hardly psoriasis.

As an aside, the gastroenterologist I visited in 2012, who performed a gastroscopy and colonscopy, didn’t diagnose any illness. He didn’t want to label it ‘colitis’ in case it was a once-off occurrence. Only late last year did my physician put a name to it – two long, bloody flares later.

I also get weird ‘blisters’ on my hands and feet. They’re small and itchy, and when they pop, they leave dry, scaly patches behind. But they are also hardly noticeable to anyone but me. My sister gets this too.

I also have ONE WART that I just cannot get rid of! It’s the legacy of my horrid ex, I do believe.

Asthma

I’ve had asthma almost my whole life. I was diagnosed at the age of 2 or 3, when I used to have severe attacks. I was told I’d grow out of it, but I never really did. While I no longer (touch wood) have asthma attacks, and haven’t for many years, I still experience wheezing and tightness in my chest when I exercise, become ill, or when I’m around cats and dogs.

I’m VERY allergic to pets, though dogs are worse than cats. I also tend to become accustomed to my own pets. I don’t have any right now, but we’d love to get a cat when we have a bigger place and it can play outside. When I was diagnosed asthmatic and allergic-to-everything-on-the-planet (my allergy tests are a joke and I even come out in red spots after I shower, swim in the sea or get too hot/cold), my mom was told to get rid of her cats but she refused! I think it probably made me more resilient.

funny-got-rid-kids-cat-allergic-sign-pics

Other than that, I’m pretty healthy. I don’t generally suffer from winter colds and flu, nor do I get stomach bugs (weirdly enough!) or any other illnesses, usually.

I’ve heard of other people with IBD who also have eczema, psoriasis or other conditions, and I often wonder if there’s a link. For me, I definitely think the stress of my bad relationship precipitated both the dermatological and digestive problems.

Do you have any other health issues besides your digestive problems?