Thursday, September 10, 2009

Visible Symptoms of an Invisible Illness

Some of you may be scratching your heads at the topic of this post and wonder what I could possibly be talking about, but after I explain, you may not want to scratch any part of your body ever again. The topic for today is skin irritations and for some Fibro sufferers, this is a visible symptom that can plague us.  According to Fibromyalgia Network's interview with Doctor Charles Lapp of Charlotte North Carolina, skin irritations are very common.  He states "fibromyaligia-related rashes occur in the majority of patients that I see." Fibromyalgia Symptoms boasts a rather high statistic on its site claiming that 70-80% of Fibromyalgia patients have skin problems with their illness.  The skin problems can vary from person to person.  Some experience dry, itchy, and/or mottled (skin changes color, appearance, or in tone) skin.  Others have experienced skin that is tender to the touch, or have a rash develop due to itch and irritation.

I was born with skin irritations around my eyes (Seborrheic Dermatitis).  The doctor at the time told my mother that it was eczema and that there was very little we could do about it because steroidal creams were out of the question when I was born.  These creams were believed to cause blindness so I suffered through until I was old enough to start using moisturizer. 

Throughout my teenage years and young adulthood, I would have an occasional breakout around my eyes, scalp, and arms.  Management of it then was not hard, I just changed moisturizers when I needed to and the problem went away within a few days.

It has only been recently that I have found my skim irritations to be a major life altering problem.  For the past two years, I have been dealing with my two right hand middle fingers having a chronic rash.  It has become painful on some days because the skin is mottled and is so dry that it will peel and bleed.  I have also had the same problems near my breast plate, around my eyes, legs, and arms.

The itching was becoming incredibly intense, and at times, I would avoid a shower like the plague because it hurt to have my skin in water.  On occasion I'd get lucky and find a moisturizer or doctor recommended steroidal cream that would clear my skin up.  However, this is now only lasting for 4-5 days. 

Upon desperation, I started to surf the net for natural ways to deal with this problem.  I started searching for reasons for the problem first.  I wondered if there was a link between foods, chemicals, allergies, or even mold that might be the culprits for my condition.  The little information I found, was confusing at best, and at times, contradictory between websites and doctors.

In the first quarter of 2007, The Advocate Newsletter from The National Eczema Association, interviewed Doctor Jon Dyer of Columbia, Missouri.  He is an Assistant Professor of Dermatology and Child Health and believes that diet is a controversial fix because you may be depriving your body of essential nutrients.  He goes further to state, however, that he "is unclear about the role of diet and allergies in a lot of (his) patients."  Dr. Dyer also shared his views on probiotics helping with eczema.  These views are about the same as his thoughts on diet, "I think the jury's still out on this, but it's an interesting idea."  The article goes on further to explain many other treatments like massage therapy, ultra violet light therapy, and even topical and systemic medicines.

After reading this, as well as, other articles on The National Eczema Association website, I began to get very discouraged.  Taking the time to constantly moisturize my skin is a difficult task with two little ones...not to mention the fact that I hate vanity of any kind because to me, it's a waste of time.  I don't like moisturizing my skin, I don't have time for makeup (I can't wear it even if I wanted to anyway), and my hair hasn't been out of a ponytail in almost a year (or two-- I forget).  Frankly, with the kids, the cats, and the hubby, I'm lucky to even be able to make it to the bathroom on some days.  I'm sure all of you Moms out there know what I'm talking about, we tend to put our needs last.

So, I started to surf a little more and came across another site, but this one was very different than the rest.  This site is run by a woman who suffers from eczema and knows what it's like to live with such an irritating condition (pun intended).  Her name is Donia Alawi and she has suffered with eczema since 1980.  Her skin disease had gotten so bad that she was facing the possibility of having a limb amputated.  She had tried creams like cortisone and herbal remedies, but these did not seem to clear her skin up for good.  What she started to realize was that if she wanted a lasting clear up, she'd have to look to her diet.

This made a lot of sense to me because I am an advocate of a healthy diet.  I don't like fake foods of any kind, be they processed or filled with chemicals, and I have been trying very hard to eliminate them all.  I will stray from time to time and eat out at a restaurant, eat frozen pizza bites (a huge favorite of mine), or even eat an occasional candy bar.  For the most part, though, I've got a good handle on it 80-90% of the week for my fibromyalgia condition. 

Donia's suggestions for eczema are a bit different.  She suggests to eliminate beef, chicken, and dairy while adding more raw foods and fish.  It's a vegan approach to a healthy diet with some exceptions.  She suggests to avoid tofu because the processing of this product may cause a flare.  Tempeh, a soybean cake that is generally found near tofu in the market, is okay.  Now, this diet may be harder for me to adhere to because I really, really like dairy and tofu, but if this can help with my skin condition, it is worth a shot.

I encourage each and every one of you to check out Donia's Eczema Natural Healing site if you have, or know someone with a skin condition that can benefit from Ms. Alawi's wisdom.  She responds to each email personally and also has an informative newsletter that you can sign up for.  It is with high hopes that her wisdom will help me to feel fabulous on the inside and out.  Wish me luck, and as always, I will keep you all up to date on this.

Stay fabulous!
Love and friendship,

Kimberley

P.S.  Don't forget about the comments contest I'm running...  We have restarted the contest and the 50th commenter will be the winner of an autographed copy of one of my books. 
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