20 May 2008

Seborrheic Dermatitis

I have been living with this scourge for 3/4 of a year. My second experience with the hell that comes with constant skin problems. And, of course, it can't manifest on my scalp, where no one but Emily would see it when I go in for a haircut. No, no, no. MY Seborrheic Dermatitis (SD) must manifest on my face, at my nose and chin, so I look like an adolescent in hormonal angst. AAAAHHHH!!!!

I first developed SD several years ago, and finally sought a dermatologist when I came to the conclusion that this "rash" wasn't going to go away. A month of treatment, and no more Seborrheic Dermatitis ... or so I thought.

Fast forward to last August/September time frame, and it came back. Yes, I was very stressed, fighting my way tooth and nail to the finish line of my degree. But, this condition isn't caused by stress, not helped, but not caused. (So I can't blame the professors for ALL of my problem.)

I blithely visit the dermo when I, once again, realize I can't fight this on my own. I snatch up my handy dandy little prescription for topical steroid foam, and hardly listen to, "Your SD went away last time? How unusual ... let's hope that happens again ..."




It didn't. After two months of steroid treatment, 2x per day, everyday, I made another appointment with my dermo. And got the bad news. This is a lifelong condition, we're going to hope for control, figure out "your" treatment needs.

A few months down the road, March timeframe, and I get really concerned. I've weaned myself to steroid application once a day to every other day. Unfortunately, it is not getting better, and seems to be getting worse. And then I start reading up on steroid problems. My system's been exposed to too many steroids already (poison ivy several times a year, anyone?) I stopped using my foam, and only lasted for a week. At the end of the week, I look so bad my Dad asks, "What's that red crap on your face?" Not even makeup could hide it at that point. I pick up the steroids again.

So back to the (admittedly) spotty info I can find on the internet. This is only the third time I've spent hours upon hours researching this little problem of mine. Yeast overgrowth, blah blah blah, sebaceous gland overproduction, blah blah blah, immune system involvement (hmmm), and T-cell blockage/reduction/compromise (huh?).

From the information I discovered, I've made some changes. The below account covers the actions I've taken and my reasoning behind those actions.

... I haven't cured myself, but I am doing a lot better. Let me lead you down my path:

T-cell's are immune cells produced in the Thymus (well, converted to their final function in the Thymus). Step one, support the Thymus and therefore T-cell production. I've done this by taking my vitamins regularly and supplementing with Zinc and Potassium. Every single day (I used to be a real vitamin, whatever, type. Not because I didn't need it, but because it wasn't important enough to remember. Boy has that changed).

Skin, typing and cleaning. I borrowed Dr. Baumann's "The Skin Type Solution" from the library. According to Dr. B, I have the worst skin type: Dry, Pigmented, Sensitive, and Wrinkled. Yay boogedy. Can this get any more interesting?

The long and short of it is, be gentle with my skin (no scrubs, no tough cleaning), be aware of ingredients and what to stay away from (I know I have some skin allergies), and moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Step two, toss all "bad" skin products, buy appropriate skin products, and take care of my largest organ.

Unfortunately, one of the products that Dr. B recommends I reacted rather horribly to. If you have sensitive skin, be very careful with Eucerin lotions. I ended up with: ugly blistering, severe itching, and a week to recover my former poor skin (as opposed to the super uglies I had after Eucerin application). Yikes! Dr. B's other recommendations have worked just fine.

Along with the previous vein, I've tossed a lot of makeup. I started keeping all makeup packaging with the list of ingredients, just in case. AND, I started using mineral foundation exclusively. Other products, especially with sunscreen, actually sink into your skin, absorbing into the top layer. I shudder to think what that's doing to my out of control yeast and sebaceous glands. So out they go.

I've used L'Oreal's Bare Naturale SPF19 Foundation (the extra "E" makes it what?) for over a week now. It has: titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, talc, boron nitride, dimethicone, Copernica cerifera (carnuba) wax, cetyl dimethicone, trimethylsiloxysilicate, triisocetyl citrate, Aloe barbadensis leaf juice, tocopherol, pathenol, and May Contain: bismuth oxychloride and iron oxides. So, it still contains some known allergens. I've not yet had a problem, but I'm on my guard. If I start to have a problem, or perhaps even when I run out, I'll switch to a fewer or no allergen mineral foundation.

BTW, I don't necessarily think "natural" OR "mineral" is so much better than synthetic. What I look for is the shortest ingredients list. It makes winnowing out problem ingredients that much easier. Plus, I want to minimize my chemical exposure. I have a theory that chemical build up in the system (plus their many rxns within the system) is one reason that SD is set off in the first place.

There are steroid alternatives on the market for psoriasis and eczema. Coal tar products are one of them. Step three, I picked up a tube of Psoriasin Gel at wallyworld (coal tar is the active ingredient). I can't stand the way the stuff smells, but every time I use it, I have good results. I haven't applied it in a couple of days ... an application seems to last me a good long time.

I came across a little blurb in another book I borrowed from the library, "Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes". (Now, I don't have type I or II diabetes, but I do have a family member with the disease, so I was researching.) This Dr. B (not to be confused with that OTHER Dr. B; besides which, they have different sex chromosomes), suggests that milk products, specifically the protein(s) within, have been linked to several diseases. Once little sentence includes "Eczema" in the list. SB is also known as Sebhorreic Eczema. Step four, become vegan. Admittedly, I've been vegetarian for ~six years, so this wasn't a big step for me.

I read another quick blurb on Psoriasis and UVA and UVB treatments, which seem to help. Most of them sound expensive. But I know of a cheap (and fairly painless, at least painless at the moment) method of UVA and UVB treatment. It's called the sun, and I can find it outside every day. Step five, sun myself, without ANY sunscreen, for 15 minutes three times a week. Some weeks I get more, but when I do, I'm wearing a sunscreen of some sort. I know a lot of dermatologists and skin care enthusiasts would absolutely freak about my being in the sun for 15 minutes without sunscreen, especially given the subtropical climate in which I live. However, I need the vitamin D, and we evolved to need some sun exposure.

I've also gotten back into my workout routine. I lift weights three times per week and do aerobics three times per week. I'm back up to an hour per workout. Everything I've read says that exercise exacerbates the skin reddness, and I have to agree. The first couple of hours after a workout, my SB is definitely more obvious. BUT, it starts looking better starting about three hours on. When you think about it, more blood flow = greater movement of T-cells = greater healing.

Like I said, not quite two weeks on, I'm not cured. BUT, I'm doing so much better. I can't wait to see what another week brings.

17 May 2008

Weight Loss 2.0

I really, really like the Calorie Tracking website My Fitness Pal.

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

It has cute little, mostly useless things like the tracker above ... BUT ...

MPF has the best food database, calorie tracking, and exercise monitoring software that I have yet found. I used another site months ago, but it is not as easy to navigate as MPF.

If you have some fat to lose, check it out. You can even guestimate the caloric excesses in some of your restaurant foods. Not an easy thing to do.

07 May 2008

Nerve Difficulties

I've been struggling with Ulnar nerve problems and Seborrheic Dermatitis for months now.

Here's some suggestions for those with similar conditions.

Ulnar Nerve -
This nerve runs from the shoulder to the elbow, and along the bottom and outside of the forearm and enervates the ring and pinky fingers.

Have you hit your "funny bone?" That's actually the ulnar nerve getting compressed.

Copy written http://www.neurosurgery.ufl.edu/Patients/ulnar.html via devtopics.com

I was diagnosed with Ulnar Neuropathy ... basically nerve damage from compression. Luckily not a bad case ... what was my downfall?


Specifically sitting in a chair with armrests, and resting my elbows on them.

Other people experience these problems due to the resting of the wrist when mousing.

A couple of adjustments have improved my computer and reading experiences immensely.

1) Remove the armrests from the chair ... no use tempting fate

2) Buy a forearm rest for computer work

3) Buy a "neutral" position mouse

4) Limit computer time

5) Stretch

6) Buy a pair of electric scissors for cutting

7) Switch to non-dominant hand for daily activities

My new scissors, My-T-Fine, http://www.mytfinecutter.com/

I chose it over several other options, because it has a NiMH battery, which is a step up from the NiCad batteries of old, though not as good as the LiIon of the future.

They can't do fine work, I wouldn't cut lace motifs with them, for instance. But anything else is like cutting though room temp. butter. Easy.

Several weeks later, I'm back to all normal activities, with care. I want to ensure that I never develop this problem again. So I am careful where I rest my arm, and what I do with hand.

My doctor shared other cases he's seen: using the fleshy side of the hand as a hammer, resting the wrist against something (especially if the object has no give and the pressure is concentrated rather than spread), and elbow injuries. So add these to your list of don'ts.