Kelly Marsh, 31, didn’t recognised herself when her face doubled in size seven months ago. The mum-of-one from Canvey, Essex, has been diagnosed with chronic spontaneous urticaria, a disease that causes her to have an allergic reaction – without a known cause. It starts as a small rash, but soon develops into larger areas and makes her lips, eyes and face swell up. Kelly said the condition is so bad, it scares her 10-year-old son, Jack, and makes her look like she’s had ‘dodgy lip fillers’. And when the itching and burning pain comes on, she’s unable to work. ‘I don’t even know myself what causes it, but it’s affecting everything, it’s like I’m a prisoner in my own skin,’ said Kelly, who works as a make-up artist business manager. ‘I literally can’t find anything, I changed the washing powder to Fairy Non Bio, went on a diet of bland food but what causes a reaction one day isn’t the same the next.’
‘It’s hard to explain without bursting into tears, you just sit here itching and burning, unable to go anywhere, to eat or even sleep – I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. I take a lot of pride in how I look, especially for my job, I need to look nice and I worry it’s affecting my relationship. ‘I don’t feel like I’m attractive to my other half, even though he tells me it hasn’t affected him at all. ‘To get through it, we try to make jokes when my face swells up, we say it looks like I’ve had a “glorious lip job that’s gone wrong” or “dodgy plastic surgery”. ‘It’s the only thing you can do – you either laugh about it or cry. ‘It’s honestly awful and embarrassing having to call in sick so often, people struggle to understand why doctors can’t just cure it. ‘The antihistamines make me so drowsy that when I take them I sleep for half of the day and then can’t sleep at night – it just takes everything out of you.’
Since her initial reaction, Kelly has tried to fix it by avoiding shampoos, perfumes and washing powders, as well as change her diet to basic ingredients such as rice, vegetables and plain chicken, but it’s made no difference. The reaction can last up to two months and every time it happens she has to visit the hospital for steroid treatment and an IV of antihistamines, and gets medicines to take at home. Kelly said: ‘The first time it happened, I had a couple of blotches on my arms and legs but didn’t think anything of it, the next day I woke up unable to recognise myself. ‘Suddenly my lips, my eyes and whole face had swollen up, I sent a picture to my manager to explain why I couldn’t come into work and she asked: “Who is that?” ‘My lips were huge, I looked like I had dodgy lip fillers, it didn’t look like me at all. ‘After it went down in a couple of days thanks to antihistamines, I didn’t think anything more of it, but then in December it came back with vengeance.’
In December, the blotches appeared for the second time, which saw Kelly hospitalised on Boxing Day and given an EpiPen as a prevention, should her throat begin to close. Unfortunately, she was told that the next appointment to review her condition on the NHS is in June, and so Kelly decided to pay £200 for a private health care session, where she was diagnosed and given medication. She hopes to soon receive an expensive injection to treat her condition, taken yearly, and is keeping a diary of her symptoms.
Read more: metro.co.uk