I have discussed asthma and allergy in previous writings and know there are many readers who suffer from either or both. I am write again because there is a possibility that asthma could lead to more serious disease. Especially if you are diagnosed with late onset of asthma, please pay great attention to your overall health. One of serious diseases stemming from asthma is eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA), formerly known as Churg-Strauss Syndrome. EGPA is a rare autoimmune disorder characterized by inflammation of blood vessels and presence of high numbers of white blood cells known as eosinophils. The inflammation can restrict the flow of blood to organs and tissues, in turn causing damage. Without treatment, the disease may be fatal.
EGPA is viewed as a rare disease but someone I know was recently diagnosed. Several medical websites mention that EGPA probably occurs with greater frequency and is underreported due to underdiagnosis or due to masking of findings by treatment with corticosteroids of what is perceived to be just severe asthma.
Usually, individuals with EGPA have asthma and allergic rhinitis that persists for years. It often arises later in life and occurs in individuals with no family history of asthma or allergies.
I would like to share some stories from EGPA patients about how their conditions started.
“As a kid I was pretty healthy. I had the occasional stomach bug or respiratory infection, and some seasonal allergies, but nothing serious and no major illnesses or hospitalizations. In my thirties, I developed asthma and a persistent annoying cough, and my allergies evolved into year round stuffiness and congestion. My asthma doctor gave me every form of inhaler, nasal spray, antihistamine, and decongestant on the market but none of them seemed to help much. I just dealt with it.
After about two years of feeling generally sick and asthmatic with a hacking cough, I was full of rashes and blisters. The skin biopsies were not conclusive but they did show very high eosinophils. On my fourth in-house hospitalization in 2008, the team of specialists put their heads together and came up with the diagnosis of EGPA.
Denise Trachsel‘s Story
“My course of the disease began decades prior to the vasculitic stage. I had a mild allergen-triggered asthma, rhinitis, sinusitis, nasal polyps, nasal sores that wouldn’t heal completely, and arthritis-like aches. With progression, I was stricken with generalized roving pains, joint swelling, muscle weakness and damage, fatigue, weight loss, fever, etc. I finally was diagnosed after I developed rashes, numbness, coughing of blood in sputum and infiltrates in lungs.”
“Before my diagnosis I suffered from severe asthma and when things got really bad my GP referred me to Queen Alexandra Hospital to see the consultants. I was having continual chest infections and really struggling to get my asthma under control. It was the fantastic team at QA who diagnosed me with Churg-Strauss Syndrome.”
“Like many people with vasculitis, I was sick for quite a while before I was diagnosed. Diagnosis was difficult because vasculitis can present in so many ways. I saw many different specialists, but none of the doctors put it all together. I saw a pulmonologist for late onset asthma, an allergist and a dermatologist for skin rashes, and an ENT for sinus problems. I lost a lot of weight, which made me very happy, but I often felt weak and lacking in energy. I had a constant dry cough – my husband said he could never lose me in a store because he could just follow the sound of my cough to find me. I had Raynaud’s syndrome and I sometimes experienced pins and needles in my hands and feet.
So, as you can see, you need to pay close attention to your asthma condition, and if you have other symptoms, please don’t take it lightly. Even though EGPA is categorized as a rare disease, the number of occurrences is increasing. In my November 2016 newsletter, I described that asthma is related to your gut health. Please watch what you eat and any medications you take as well as your lifestyle choices. Think twice before taking antibiotics to save your gut health!