My Perioral Dermatitis
I had no intentions of sharing this journey until recently. These photos were meant for my own private use and documentation. However, as I found myself scouring the internet for answers which we all seem to do in these situations, I thought I may be of some help to someone out there suffering with the same affliction. I hope my words and discoveries offer hope, and maybe a few tools to help fight, and win, their own battle.
It was around mid-January of this year when it started.
A stinging sensation on my upper lip. Ugh, another cold sore I thought. I coated my lips with Abreva and downed L-Lysine supplements.
Rewind about a decade (oh my). In my early twenties I was plagued with my first cold sore break-out. It was bad - and lasted several weeks. Throughout the following several years, I had minor break-outs and then one day, they just vanished for good.
But there I was, January 2016, and they were back, so I thought...
The Abreva and L-Lysine didn't seem to be working because the tingling and bumps started to spread like wild fire. They spread across my lips, and then they spread AROUND my lips. Bright red clusters of bumps. They tingled, burned, and itched. There was no relief - no escaping from the constant discomfort. And no hiding either - except in my home which is exactly where I parked myself for the weeks proceeding.
In an attempt to heal this rash, this nuisance, naturally, I applied a plethora of products to my face: Aquafore Vitamin E Oil Greek Yogurt Avocado Breast Milk Peppermint Essential Oil Apple Cider Vinegar Ice
Nothing seemed to be working.
At this point I had ruled out a cold sore break-out, and with a trip to Mexico just DAYS away and a rash that continued to get WORSE, I went to the Med Center. It was there I was diagnosed with Perioral Dermatitis and the prognosis was hard to swallow. "It usually plagues women between 20-40 years of age, the cause is unknown for most, and it can take weeks to months to rid of." OH, and "stay out of the sun".
Just what you want to hear with a tropical vacation a few days out. I left with an antibiotic and cream script, and very little hope.
That night I applied the cream to my face. Oh boy did it burn. But, I went to bed and tried my best to will the pain away as I drifted to sleep. Hah, sleep. That was virtually a sleepless night, and in the morning when I accessed the inflamed itchy red mess that was my face, it had gotten WORSE. It was leaking, my friends. Leaking and crusting - on repeat. The corners of my mouth had split. It was painful to talk, and just forget about eating...
I was convinced I was misdiagnosed, and that the cream made it flare up even worse. I didn't take the antibiotic, and I tossed the cream in the trash.
My husband Dan and I had ruled out our trip to Mexico, and were talking to the travel agent about our options to cancel. Tears, tears, and more tears. I don't normally feel sorry for myself. But I was throwing myself a huge pity party. I needed this vacation, especially now.
In one last desperate attempt, I made a same day appointment with a Dermatologist. Vacation to Mexico? 3 days out.
The Derm gave my rash one look and diagnosed me with Contact Dermatitis. She said it wasn't consistant with Perioral, and prescribed me a topical steroid cream, and Prednisone, a steroid to take orally. The best part? She said I was absolutely going to Mexico, and that I should start to see my rash clear up in 48 hours. She also said the sun would be GOOD for it. I wanted to hug her. Ahhhh, a ray of light. Finally.
I applied the steroid cream all over my face before even driving out of the parking lot. It felt like Heaven. The first thing I had applied that was actually soothing. I started on the steroid (Prednisone) immediately too.
After the first 24 hours my rash had stopped "leaking and crusting". The redness had started to diminish.
After 48 hours it was 50% cleared up, and most of the discomfort was gone.
WE WERE GOING TO MEXICO!! It was decided. We were going.
By the time we arrived, my face was virtually rash-less. I looked and felt like myself again. It really felt like a miracle.
I continued to take the steroid, and use the cream.
The oral steroid was a 10 day script. After I had completed the round - I continued using the steroid cream on areas of my face that still seemed semi irritated and dry. Over the course of the following two months, I had small areas of redness return, but tossing the cream on it seemed to do the trick.
This battle continued, and I wondered if I was ever going to be 100% rid of this darn rash.
And then my worst nightmare happened. IT RETURNED.
With a vengeance too. Red bumps, tingling, itching, burning, spreading, leaking, crusting. All of it. Again. Oh, and up around my nose and cheeks this time too. Ugh.
I found myself scouring google for advice, remedies, answers, ANYTHING. Waaaah, someone just help me!
What I DID read continually from others plagued with the same rash: DO NOT TAKE STEROIDS.
Welp, too late there. Apparently steroids temporarily suppress the issue. When stopped, the issue will resurface, usually worse. And oh boy was that true. Your body becomes addicted to the steroids, and when they're taken away, it retaliates.
Nobody told me this. Shouldn't that be required for a doctor to tell a patient? I was frustrated, but at the same time, I likely wouldn't have made it to Mexico without taking the steroids - so it was a bit of a catch 22. All I knew was that for that moment on, I would never take another steroid again. I tossed that cream in the trash - and made another appointment to see the Derm.
This time around, my Derm said I had Perioral Dermatitis, or PD (the first time around she diagnosed me with Contact Dermatitis). Like most doctors do, I was prescribed an antibiotic, Zithromax, and sent on my merry way. I love my Derm and know she means well, but at this point I am just irritated. Hesitant to take another pill, but desperate to rid of this rash and discomfort, I take Zithromax as directed.
Additionally, and through advice heeded from Google, I also incorporate daily shots of Bragg's Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, rid my house of products containing SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate - which is in just about everything from shampoo to laundry detergent), begin drinking Kombucha for probiotics, used a homemade toothpaste free of fluoride (the flouride further irritated my flare ups), and made homemade bone broth. Bone broth is SO good for healing inflammation in the gut. It's simple to make in the crockpot, but when time is slim, I opt for the grass fed bone broth from Kettle & Fire. I try to keep it on hand all the time!
About a week into this new regimen, my rash started to clear up.
The process was slow going, but each day I was making small strides and starting to feel like myself again. Knowing that antibiotics also kill off the GOOD bacteria in the gut, I had reservations that this was the answer, and that I may be doing more harm inside my body than good. But as directed by my Derm, I wasn't to stop the antibiotic, even if the rash felt better. It was important I take the full dosage (15 pills, every other day). So I kept on keeping on...
It's day 30, and I finally pop my FINAL PILL. I was so glad to be done.
That same day I headed to our neighborhood playground with my kiddos. It was a beautiful day, sun shining bright, and we spent about 45 minutes playing around until we headed back home.
Not minutes after tossing our shoes off inside, I felt a tingling/burning sensation on my lips and around my mouth. I quick found a mirror. It appeared almost like I had put on a red lipstick. My lips were inflamed.
NOOOOOO. NO. NO. NO.
I was immediately in panic/stressed out/anxious mode. It's coming back.
And it did. FAST. Not two hours after returning, it had spread over my lips and around my mouth, surely triggered by the sun this time. And possibly a little stress...
Technically I was still on the antibiotic as I had taken the final dosage that morning. So much for that working.
That same afternoon the rash had progressed into the "weeping and crusting" stage. I was miserable, and felt completely defeated. Through more advice heeded via Google, I had my husband pick up Burt's Bees Diaper Rash Cream with 40% zinc oxide. The high zinc content is said to work wonders on PD. Butt rash cream on my face? I was hesitant, but way more desperate, and willing to try ANYTHING.
I was fed up, discouraged, and close to a depression.
And then I made the best decision of this entire process...
I called a local Homeopathic Doctor and asked for the earliest appointment, which was the following morning. I am a huge believer in healing ailments naturally, and know that most rashes and disease start from inside.
That night I applied the Burt's Bees Diaper Rash Cream all over my weeping rash - and fell asleep with hope for the first time.
In the morning my face actually felt...better? Far from clear, but definitely better. After only one night too. It was almost a miracle. The diaper cream was working, and my rash had actually ceased its weeping. I got myself ready for the appointment and headed out the door...
My experience with the Naturopathic Doctor was eye opening.
Unlike my visit to the Med Center and Dermatologist, my Homeopathic Doctor collected a plethora of information about ME from ALL areas of my life. She did a thorough evaluation, going over everything in detail, beginning with my birth. She pointed out that those who do not travel through the birth canal, do not receive good bacteria from their Mother upon entering the world, and are more prone to ailments and disease down the road. Babies birthed via cesarean section should be given probiotics (good bacteria) to start their gut health off strong. I was born via c-section, and not given any probiotics to compensate.
My allergy to sulfa also became a prominent area of concern, and enlightenment.
I discovered this allergy several years ago while on a sulfa drug for an infection. The drug triggered head to toe hives (a skin rash...interesting). My doctor mentioned several foods that contain high amounts of sulphur. Among these, eggs topped the list as having the highest amount - and said she wouldn't be surprised if I had an egg sensitivity.
I was skeptical. Eggs were a prominent part of my diet, and I had been eating them my whole life. I couldn't imagine that an egg, full of protein, healthy fats, and nutrients could potentially be causing me so much discomfort. I didn't want to believe it.
I had two options; eliminate eggs for 30 days, and introduce them back in, evaluating how I felt - OR order up a food sensitivity blood test (which would also test 96 of the most common food allergens). Knowing that I would NOT be able to stick to the elimination diet, especially for eggs, I ordered up the test. Results would take 3 weeks to come in.
Meanwhile, my Homeopathic Doctor left me with some home remedies to help heal the inflammation in my body. My new daily routine consisted of dissolving 3 to 4 Sulphur 30c Pellets under my tongue (to help build immunity), taking shots of pure Aloe Vera Juice (the inner leaf), downing a strong, pharmaceutical grade Probiotic to increase the good bacteria in my gut, and consuming bone broth to heal inflammation. This I had already been doing. My fave brand is Kettle & Fire.
Day by day, my rash began to clear, and not a week after my appointment, it was gone. I felt like myself again for the first time in a LONG time. This was encouraging, and I was finally feeling hopeful for my future with PD.
The last piece of the puzzle would be the results. I was eager to find out what food aversions I had so I knew what foods to avoid in order to feel my absolute best, and avoid any more PD break-outs.
Finally, the call I was waiting for. My results were in. I was anxious. Why did I feel so anxious?
I wasn't sure I was ready to face the truth. I wasn't ready to give up a food I've become dependent on. A food that is a staple in my diet. But at the same time, I was ready to just know, accept it, and move on with my life. I could handle it. I can do this. Bring the results on.
I had the office send them to me via email. I clicked open the PDF file, my eyes quickly scanning the document up and down. Oh boy. They were not the exact results I was hoping for, but it all made sense really, and that revelation was needed.
The test rates each sensitivity on the following scale: no reaction, very low, low, moderate, high, very high, extremely high.
I tested "extremely high" for both egg white and egg yolk. My Homeopathic Doctor hit the nail on the head with that one. I had this gut feeling she was right about it, but I wanted her to be wrong. It was difficult to picture a life without eggs, but that's the reality I am now facing. I am 99.9% convinced that because I was consuming SO many eggs, the inflammation in my body spun out of control, and brought itself to the surface in the form of Perioral Dermatitis.
It was difficult to digest this news, but at the same time a relief to finally have an answer to this painful issue that had been plaguing me for 5 months.
The test also revealed a moderate to high sensitivity to all dairy, with whey and milk tipping the charts there - and a very high sensitivity to the...drum roll...PEANUT. Dang it. That one hit me hard too. I kind of have a peanut butter obsession - but almond butter will be a fine substitution. Other moderate aversions included gluten, soy, pinto beans, kidney beans, string beans, and bakers yeast.
I had to let this information digest for several hours, and then created a new game plan. I needed to focus on all the delicious, whole, clean foods I COULD still have, instead of all these new foods I needed to avoid. Sensitivities are a bit different from an actual allergy. Sensitivities are not life threatening or lethal, but instead just cause mild to chronic inflammation in the gut that transform themselves into stomach pains, stuffy noses, brain fog, gas, bloat, and rashes. Sensitivities can change too. After reviewing my results, my Homeopathic Doctor advised me to eliminate the foods I am sensitive to for 30 days, and introduce them back in one by one, monitoring my symptoms closely. It's possible I may be able to tolerate them better after cleansing my body of them and healing my gut. If any negative symptoms DO persist, I know that's a food I should be avoiding at least for now, and the immediate future.
Moral of the story...
Although modern medicine is needed and beneficial in some situations, it's definitely not the answer for all. Prescription medications typically just put a bandaid on deeper situations - and lead to other issues and MORE medications. In this case, the steroids and antibiotics were doing way more harm on my body than good. The steroid became addictive, and the antibiotic killed off all the good bacteria in my gut, only leading me to yet another PD flare up. Sometimes, the only way to truly find answers is to dig deep and get to the root of the problem. I am so grateful for my decision to see a Homeopathic Doctor. I am currently free of any PD symptoms, and have the tools and knowledge to move forward with hopefully no reoccurrence. :)