Since steroid creams are many dermatologists’ “go to” prescription for a range of skin issues, even for just a mild rash, anyone can end up with TSW (topical steroid withdrawal). Once TSW is in full swing, it can be very difficult to diagnose and treat properly. That’s what happened to our patient Carli*.
Searching for Answers
“Two years ago, my story started with just a little rash on the side of my neck that really itched and just wouldn’t go away,” says Carli. “I set up an appointment with a local dermatologist who quickly looked at it and said it was some type of contact dermatitis, and gave me a topical steroid to apply for two weeks. Not only did it not work, but the rash also spread to my arm, and the itch intensified. I went to another dermatologist who did a biopsy on my arm, diagnosed me with psoriasis and prescribed me more topical steroids along with the pill Otezla (TM).”
“For eight months, I waited patiently for results with no relief. I had steroid shots to help relieve the itch since I was no longer getting quality sleep. After a round of five shots and more topical steroids, the real nightmare began,” Carli remembers.
TSW: Difficult to Diagnose
“I began having swollen eyes, flushed face, extreme burning, extreme flaking of the face, a bone deep itch so intense you cannot think of anything else, red sleeves on my arms, oozing liquid out my cheeks and back of the ears, and ‘elephant skin.’ Internally, something felt so off inside of me that I thought I was dying.”
“Little did I know, I was in TSW,” says Carli. “I was prescribed Skyrizi(TM) next, which is a self-injectable immunosuppressant for psoriasis. I went to the ER one night in so much pain and so swollen that the doctors thought I was having a severe allergic reaction and gave me a large dose of BenadrylÒ and prednisone (more steroids).”
When your skin condition gets worse, not better, after a trip to the dermatologist, panic can set in. Things can look even more hopeless when multiple medicines fail. That’s the case for many TSW patients when their strange and stubborn symptoms evade correct diagnosis. Carli’s case is all too common.
“Throughout the next several months I was diagnosed with various skin conditions by allergists, rheumatologists, general practitioners, and more dermatologists. Two doctors even told me I would never get better without taking the drug Dupixent(TM) for the rest of my life.”
Changing Her Perspective
“It was then I decided to take charge of my own body. I had nothing else to lose. I was in a deep depression and on the verge of taking a leave of absence from my work. I spent hours upon hours researching what could be going on with me, when I came across a girl on Instagram living in the UK who looked just like me. She had all of my symptoms and she was educating her followers on topical steroid withdrawal. I am forever grateful for finding her posts.”
“I knew in my heart what I actually had and what no one else was telling me. I am most blessed and fortunate for having found Dr. Olivia on the ITSAN (International Topical Steroid Awareness Network) webpage.,” Carli shares. “I stopped steroids immediately and filled out Dr. Olivia’s intake form. I will never forget our first conversation on the phone for over an hour. She listened to my story, asked so many important questions. To my relief, she believed that I had TSW and was going to help me with her wealth of knowledge on this condition. It was the first time ever I felt hope and the first time ANY doctor acknowledged the dangers of steroids.”
TCM Herbal Medicine Brings Results
Traditional Chinese herbal medicine helps to reverse the symptoms of TSW for many patients, and assists the body in healing itself for lasting recovery. Here’s what happened to Carli once she found TCM herbal medicine:
“The next 9 months became a beautiful journey with Dr. Olivia that I will never forget. As I drank her Chinese herbs, the swelling, oozing, and heat in my body was the first to begin to go,” says Carli. “I began seeing my eyes again, not half shut and swollen. When I had setbacks, she was there in an email or on Zoom to reassure me, change my formula, and educate me on what was happening inside my body and why.”
“I never thought when I was in the worst of it that it was going to end. I thought this was going to be my new life — filled with pain and hopelessness. Dr. Olivia changed all that. If anyone is going through this right now, you, too, will come out the other side.”
Before and After Photos
What Carli Says Now
Carli’s story is one of hope for TSW sufferers. “The present day is so much happier for me. If I have an itchy day, it is not bone deep and I can put natural creams on my face again without feeling like acid is being poured on me. I can put makeup on my face again, I can go outside in the cold and not feel like the wind is cutting through my skin. I can live this life again and you will too!”
*Carli is a pseudonym used to protect this patient’s privacy
Want to Learn More About TSW?
Dr. Olivia offers a free e-course called “Taming TSW” and other resources for those suffering from topical steroid withdrawal. Also, check our media section for interviews and more articles on TSW.
About the Author
Olivia Hsu Friedman, LAc, Dipl.OM, DACM, Cert. TCMDerm, is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and treats Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis, and TSW. Olivia treats patients via video conferencing using only herbal medicine. Olivia is Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Acupuncturists, serves on the Advisory Board of LearnSkin, and is a faculty member of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Group sponsored by the National Eczema Association.