Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Heartbreak of...Chronic Hives

I just have to vent about this. You can read it, or not.

I always wondered what the heck people meant when they referred to "the heartbreak of psoriasis." Now that I know what it's like to have a mysteriously recurring autoimmune skin condition that is essentially an enigma to modern medicine, and apparently continues to be so in the 13 years I've had to live with it off and on, it IS a little heartbreaking.

Okay, I'll correct myself: there have been two new things since the last time I obsessively researched this online (during my last bout, maybe three years ago). Firstly, some people respond to the asthma medication Xolair, although so far in the small number of studies conducted, the hives slowly return after medication is stopped, so...yeah. Secondly, there's been a name change! Oh, yay. Now "chronic idiopathic urticaria" is "chronic spontaneous urticaria."

It still means the same thing, though: recurring mystery hives, cause unknown.

And it's more than just hives, at least in my experience. The hives might itch furiously, or a little, or not at all. They might go away throughout the day. Or not. Antihistamines might help, or not. A course of steroids usually ultimately kicks it in the butt, except when it doesn't, like this time. (A new and unwelcome development.) My personal least favorite is getting a hive on my lip or eyelid so it looks like I got smacked in a barfight, although having welts up and down my legs is no picnic either.

And then there are the vague non-hive symptoms. Feeling like I've swallowed air and it's causing pressure in my chest, like heartburn or gas pain, moving around in there for hours, sometimes during the night so it's hard to sleep deeply for long periods of time. Zantac: it might help, or it might not. (Bet you didn't know it was a histamine blocker. The things you find out when you have hives.) The fatigue and general malaise that make me feel just kind of tired and yucky. The anxiety that some unlucky day I might get swelling in my tongue or throat and have to get rushed to the hospital, though that hasn't happened yet, knock on wood.

Exercise is always supposed to be a cure-all. Exercise helps reduce the stress hormone cortisol, etc. etc. If I'm feeling okay enough to exercise, it might help--sometimes it seems to help me metabolize whatever medication I've taken, and the hives will start to go down. Sometimes my own sweat seems to irritate my skin and bring out new hives. Sometimes I just don't feel well enough to exercise, or I have hives on my feet that make it really uncomfortable to wear running shoes. Or run.

This might be the worst, though: knowing that stress and anxiety is a major component, perhaps even the long-term ultimate cause--and still being unable to control the fact that the condition itself causes me additional stress.

Like anxiety and depression, issues I'm also far too familiar with, it isn't something that will "just go away." Seems like there's about a five-month minimum, in fact. So...it's been almost a month now. Four more to go? We'll see.