A Torquay woman who diagnosed what long-term, painful skin condition she has after watching an episode of Embarrassing Bodies says she also found her own treatment.
Rachel had been suffering with open abscesses under her armpits meaning that she was in constant pain.
It was not known what was causing the debilitating condition, other than being given a diagnosis of folliculitis – an infection in the hair follicles – by her GP.
The 32-year-old was put on and off various antibiotics and used morphine patches to control the pain with limited success.
She diagnosed herself not long after getting her first abscess in her right armpit three years ago, and it wasn’t until last October she was officially diagnosed with hidradenitis suppurativa by an out of hours doctor at the hospital.
It causes abscesses and scarring on the skin, and usually occurs near hair follicles where there are sweat glands, around the groin, buttocks, breasts and armpits. The exact cause of it is unknown.
Rachel said: “The way it affected my life was that I was very restricted in what I could do. I needed help with dressing and showering, and I couldn’t go swimming for three years which was my main form of exercise.
“The pain of it also made me very depressed and it could sometimes smell as well, which made me anxious about being around people.”
In an attempt to improve her quality of her life, she had surgery the day after being officially diagnosed to try and remove her abscesses.
However, it did not work as quickly as she hoped.
Rachel recalled: “I was told I needed an incision and drainage of the abscesses as they were too far gone for any other treatment. It was nine months after surgery that I was finally all healed up.
“Earlier this year I started to get abscesses in my left armpit as well.”
Rachel’s husband Stephen spent weeks online researching treatments and discovered a powder dressing from the USA.
He was informed by an American doctor it would work for Rachel, but was unavailable on the NHS, and the treatment would require a trip to Germany.
Unable to fund the trip, new hope came when Stephen came across a video about CBD oil and wound healing.
Rachel said: “We felt this would be too easy an answer, yet skeptically took a trip to the CBD Lab in Torquay. I started using CBD Oil drops twice a day, and could really feel a difference.
“Two weeks later there was a noticeable change in the appearance of the wounds. Previously I had to visit the doctors surgery everyday and the hospital at weekends to have the wounds dressed.
“It went down to just three times a week at the doctors surgery.
“The bottle ran out and after a couple of weeks without using CBD the wounds started opening again. The oil was expensive for us but I realised it wasn’t just a waste of a significant portion of our income.
“Once back on the oil, my wounds all healed up within three months. Today I am abscess and pain free, allowing me to get back to my normal day to day life.
“The CBD oil wasn’t a ‘cure’; it was just one of the things I used to help me in my recovery. It helped to maintain my immune system which helped to stop the recurrent infections that I kept getting, along with the long term antibiotics I am on.
“I want to spread awareness of how CBD oil helped in my recovery. I am in a support group online so I know that there are many people out there suffering in silence with this condition that are unaware that there is a possible solution.”