I have a rather nasty condition called angioedema – a lot of people think it is related to the heart – which it isn’t. It is related to hives, but is a lot worse – it manifests itself a lot deeper and in weird ways.
I have had it for about 20 years, maybe longer, and the first time it happened I didn’t know what it was. I was doing some gardening and then one of my feet swelled to about 130% normal size. Could hardly walk and took a bus to the doctor. He thought it was a spider bite and gave me cortisone, and it went away over the next day or so (not before the other foot swelled). Then, periodically, my feet, my hands, my face, my tongue (or half the tongue), lips, or localised areas almost anywhere (and I mean that) would swell. For a while I thought it was some lingering poison from a spider bite. Hmm.. you can convince yourself of everything.
Eventually I got to see an immunologist and he diagnosed the condition within minutes – that was about 5 years ago.
My immunologist is great, and a leader in his field. He was a mixed blessing for me – he got me to understand what I have, but at the same time realise that it was nigh impossible to know what causes the allergy, and so I had to reconcile myself to drug therapy to control it. And over the next year or two that is what he did for me.
Over the last few weeks I had a nasty batch of attacks. It turned out that my lovely little child gave me a virus, that turned into a throat and ear infection, which crashed and burned my immune system, causing the angioedema to win the day against the normal drug therapy. So I had everything – including the thing I dreaded the most – throat swelling. I spent 7 hours this morning at Royal Melbourne Hospital casualty, getting pumped with hydrocortisone and IntraMuscular adrenalin.
I still hope this is the after effects of my infection-hit. If not, I have to carry an epi-pen with adrenalin nearby. Not good.