22 April 2012

I have been living with this condition for a year now, not long I know, but it feels like it's been ages.  I am effected on my hands only, my left hand far worse than my right.

It all started after a week of camping.  When I finished the trip I noticed that I had red itchy blotches on the insides of some of my fingers.  At the time and for months after I thought it was eczema.  I continued to eat my normal diet, vegetarian food cooked from scratch.  I exclude a few foods to manage another health condition.  I carried on using all the same toiletries, but started using more and different hand creams to try to ease the itching.

There were several occasions over the next few months when the symptoms subsided, it is so easy in hindsight to realise why but at the time I did not make the connection.  I did extensive research into eczema and managing it on the internet and in books but I could never quite find any information which matched my actual symptoms.  I had decided from the outset not to consult my GP.

After six months during which time my fingers had got gradually fatter (I had had to stop wearing my engagement ring as it was too tight) with swelling, I noticed after a day out with friends the next morning my hands were considerably more swollen and my fingers could hardly bend.  I consulted my homeopathy book to find a remedy for swelling.  There was one, Apis mel, this remedy is also used for urticaria.  On looking up urticaria in the index, I found other remedies which described exactly my symptoms.  I then started to research urticaria and how to manage it.  I was troubled to read that it is difficult to manage and can be almost impossible to pin point the triggers.  Not one to give in to such information I carried on reading.

About a month into that journey I woke one morning with an eye swollen shut.  My hands by this point were so swollen they were pretty much straight every day, many simple tasks were very difficult, I was unable to drive.  One of triggers for the swelling I discovered was limonene, an essential oil.  It was in virtually every household cleaning and toiletry product in my home.  I stopped using them all and the effect was incredible.  Within a few days my hands were far less swollen but I still had the intense itchiness on most mornings (this is the only time of day that I am ever itchy).  Trying to find products without limonene in was another journey in itself, I will post about that another time

I carried on researching and chanced upon a website that talked about histamine intolerance.  It outlined foods that are high and low in histamine and foods that make you body produce more histamine.  I was astounded to read the list of foods that make your body produce more histamine, as so many of them were foods that I already excluded from my diet to manage another condition.  I went through the list and started to exclude all the other foods on the list that I eat regularly.

I also discovered that certain food colours and some preservatives mainly sulphites, MSG, BHT and BHA.  The food I had eaten during the week that had triggered this would have been high in all or most of these.  This diet was a huge change from my normal one.

A year on, I know what all my triggers are.  I have been symptom free for two months now.  My skin on my hands is back to normal.  I lost four fingernails during the height of a particularly bad flare up, which damaged the nail bed.  Two of those are back to normal the other two are getting there.   If and when I do have a flare up, I use two homeopathic remedies apis mel and urtica urens.

Avoiding the preservatives is challenging, I have to read the labels on everything I buy, even something I buy every week.  Ingredients have changed which I have discovered to my cost.  Also if an ingredient within the product contains one the those preservatives it might not be mentioned so I have to be aware of what they might be in too!  I hardly used to eat out much, but I now I never do.  All food I eat needs to be cooked by myself or by someone of whom I can ask them what they put in it, tedious but necessary.

It is hardly surprising really that the triggers have turned out to be unnatural additives in foods.

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