"Chronic urticaria "

About: Harrogate District Hospital / Dermatology

(as the patient),

I am a young woman who developed urticaria when I was 23 in 2007, having had no previous skin problems.

I saw three different GPs at my local practice at intervals, and was given 3 diagnosis (first a fungal infection, then Pityriasis Rosea, then acute urticaria), the first two came with lengthy courses of treatment, the last I was told that I would grow out of.

My urticaria can be so severe that I cannot walk and takes up to 24 hours to recede. As you can understand, I was reluctant to let it run its course, as at this point I had had symptoms for 6 months, so I asked to be referred to a dermatologist.

My doctor was happy to refer me, but an appointment could take up to six hours to arrive. I asked how long a private appointment would take to come through, this was two weeks. Thankfully I had the means to take this option.

The private dermatologist I saw was also the NHS dermatologist for the local area, who worked for a private hospital two days a week. I was put on several courses of treatment including high dose antihistamines, light therapy and beta blockers. None of which had any effect, so I was discharged.

All through this process, I had been asking the doctors what causes this? I understood that all the treatments were designed to treat the symptoms, not the underlying cause. But I felt at no point did anyone seem particularly interested in this and often waived off my questions by saying to me we often never know and it's not really important.

It was at this point that my condition became more worrying. I started developing violent reactions to all sorts of common drugs. Penicillin, codeine, aspirin and ibuprophen to name a few. On two occasions I was rushed to hospital.

I was told by the doctors in A&E that I was stupid not to have an epipen and I should have been more cautious with my allergies- despite the fact that I had no idea I had them. At no point was it mentioned to me that these reactions could be linked to my urticaria, which I mentioned that I had.

I asked my GP if I could be referred to an allergy specialist, as so far I had been told to avoid all these drugs and I should be fine. Doing research myself I found it very odd that I had allergic reactions to all these drugs.

The allergy specialist tested me for various allergies and uncovered that I was not actually allergic to them, it was a mechanism involving my urticaria and therefore not his department, so I went back to my GP and am now back at the start.

The conclusion of my story is that I feel the NHS seems very reluctant to deal with people whose problems are not immediately obvious and treatable. I felt as if I had to fight to see specialists at every stage, and feel my GP’s practice had no expertise in this area and it seems that I am now going to have to start all over again.

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