Carrie Ann Inaba, TV host on CBS’ The Talk and judge on ABC’s hit show Dancing with the Stars opened up about her struggle living with autoimmune diseases and chronic illnesses on her blog, Carrie Ann Conversations.
The Emmy award-nominated TV personality said that she has been diagnosed with several different autoimmune diseases and chronic conditions over the years, including Sjogren’s Syndrome, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), and she also has the markers for Antiphospholipid Syndrome (APS), which causes blood clots. The 53-year-old dancer and choreographer says she also struggles with fibromyalgia and spinal stenosis.
As a result of her various autoimmune conditions, Inaba has taken a leave of absence from her role on The Talk so that she can focus on her health, reports MedPage Today.
Talking about her health journey, Inaba said: “Even if we are fortunate enough to get a diagnosis, we can quickly end up with more questions than answers. Often when it comes to autoimmune conditions there is no perfect solution or clear path forward.”
Inaba continued, explaining: “Coping with autoimmune conditions can sometimes feel quite lonely. When I first got diagnosed, some encouraged me to keep my struggles to myself, but I’ve found that it’s always been better to be honest about my needs and realities than to stay silent. I believe strongly in sharing my journey, my solutions, and the things that have helped me.”
In this spirit, Inaba has shared on her blog the products that have helped her cope with her autoimmune disease symptoms – including eye dryness, mouth dryness, joint pain, fatigue, brain fog and more – so that others can benefit from these products and see if they work for them.
This isn’t the first time that Carrie Ann Inaba has opened up about her health struggles. The starlet previously posted on Instagram about how she felt ashamed of her autoimmune diseases, and wanting “…to be what people see. And people see a healthy person, from the outside.” However, confronting her health problems made Inaba reflect on who she is as a person, besides just her identity as a “sexy dancer chick.”
From all of us at Autoimmune Warrior, we want to thank Carrie Ann for opening up about her health journey as an #AutoimmuneWarrior, and raising awareness about the 80+ autoimmune diseases affecting over 23 million Americans. Because of celebrities like her, more people among the general population are learning about autoimmune conditions, and why extensive research is needed to find better treatments, and eventually, a cure.
As many of my subscribers know, I have an autoimmune disease called Sjogren’s Syndrome. One of the main symptoms of Sjogren’s is dry eyes, among many other things.
While those who don’t have dry eyes may not think that it’s a big deal, us dry eye sufferers know that even a small amount of eye dryness can wreck havoc on your health and lifestyle. According to the Mayo Clinic, chronic dry eyes can cause an array of issues, including discomfort and irritation, which could feel like burning, itching or like an eyelash or other foreign object is stuck in your eye. Other symptoms include blepharitis (meibomian gland dysfunction), eyelids turning inwards (ectropion) or outwards (entropion), eye infections, eye inflammation, corneal ulcers and other eye abrasions. In severe cases, dry eye can even result in vision loss.
That’s why it’s imperative that if you suffer from dry eye, that you find ways to ensure your eyes are adequately hydrated so that you can minimize the impact of dry eye symptoms. In this blog post, I wanted to share the products that have worked for me in helping to reduce my Sjogren’s-related dry eye symptoms.
1. Artificial Tears
One of the main products that I use daily for dry eye relief are artificial tears. These over-the-counter eyedrops are similar to the ones that can be found in a small bottle, but instead, they’re packaged in individual vials and are preservative-free.
When I was first diagnosed with Sjogren’s, my ophthalmologist recommended that if I was using eyedrops more than four times a day, it was imperative that I use a preservative-free eye drop brand to reduce the possibility for a toxic or allergic reaction to the preservatives. As a result, I now exclusively use preservative-free artificial tears. There are many over-the-counter brands available, but my favorite by far is Refresh Artificial Tears.
2. Eye Mask/Heat Compress
During my ongoing battle with dry eye disease, I developed a condition called blepharitis. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids, in which they can become swollen, itchy, red, and irritated.
As a result, I frequently use heat compresses on my eyelids to relieve the swelling and inflammation. By using a face towel soaked in warm water, I was able to not only decrease the swelling, but also to clean my eyelids, which can become even more clogged with dandruff-like scales when you have blepharitis.
More recently, my ophthalmologist recommended that I look into purchasing a Bruder mask, which are eye pads that can be easily heated up in your microwave oven, and then placed on your eyelids. This spa-like heat compress is both washable and reusable.
3. Eyelid Scrub
In an effort to further reduce the blepharitis symptoms I experience, I also use an eyelid scrub. The specific brand I use is called OcuSoft Lid Scrub, and it comes in a variety of types, from regular wipes to a ‘plus’ formula for those with extra sensitive eyes. The lid scrub helps to remove any debris stuck in my eyelids and eyelashes, which helps to further decrease the swelling and irritation that I experience as a Sjogren’s patient.
If you don’t like using individual wipes, OcuSoft also offers a pump option so that you can pump the eyelid scrub directly into your hand and wash your eyes with it. This makes it easy to incorporate into your daily wash-and-go routine.
The next must-have item for dry eye patients is a humidifier. A humidifier is an indoor device that releases a humidifying mist into the air, to help increase the moisture levels in your immediate environment. To tell you the truth, I didn’t know humidifiers existed until I moved to the Southwest United States – here in the desert-like climate, everyone seems to have one!
Humidifiers are great because they don’t involve applying something directly to your eyes. They’re also easy to refill with water, and you can buy a large one for a big room, or a smaller one that sits on your desk for your home office or bedside table. Plus, you don’t need to leave it on all day long – I find just running my humidifier for 20 minutes makes my immediate space comfortable enough that I don’t need to use it for the rest of the day. Some patients find that turning on their humidifier at night helps them to sleep comfortably, since eyes tend to be drier at night, when your tear glands decrease tear production while you’re asleep.
5. Omega-3 Supplements
While the exact effects of vitamins and minerals on eye health are up for debate, many years ago, my optometrist at the time did recommend taking omega-3 fish oil supplements daily for my eye health. He explained to me that while dry eye is often a tear production issue, it could also be a tear evaporation issue. This is because another component of healthy tears is having a sufficient high-quality oil, called meibum, in the water layer of your eye’s surface to prevent your tears from evaporating too quickly.
Based on his recommendation, I take omega-3 supplements derived from fish oil. The supplements are over-the-counter rapid release soft gels from my local pharmacy- nothing too fancy, but they do the job!
Beyond using these five products, there are other initiatives I’m taking to reduce my dry eyes; for example, I’m getting the punctal plugs re-inserted into my tear ducts next month (after one fell out). However, these five products alone have made a big difference in improving my quality of life with Sjogren’s Syndrome and dry eye disease, and I hope that they work for you too.
Remember, always talk to your doctor before beginning a new medication, regimen, or treatment plan. Please read Autoimmune Warrior’s product recommendations disclaimer on our About Us page regarding our participation in Amazon’s Associates Program.
Last year, I switched health insurance plans, and as a result, the dermatologist that I was seeing to treat my hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) was no longer in-network. So, I had to find a new physician. I found a new dermatologist in my area that was covered under my health insurance plan, so I made an appointment and saw her for the first time last week.
My last physician – who diagnosed me with this chronic autoimmune skin condition – had been treating my hidradenitis by giving me cortisone (steroid) injections. While this was effective to control the inflammation and pain caused by my HS boils, it wasn’t really a long-term solution. I had also been prescribed clindamycin lotion to put on my hidradenitis lesions after showering, and over-the-counter Hibiclens, a wash that medical staff use to ‘scrub in’ in order to prevent any infections from occurring. However, neither of these topical solutions have gotten rid of my HS boils.
My new dermatologist was very caring, and didn’t rush me at all. She suggested that I use a new topical solution called resorcinol. Resorcinol is not covered by my health insurance, since it’s not made by a typical pharmacy, but rather, a compounding facility. While this is a downside, I did some research about the medication, and according to the Journal of the American Academy for Dermatology (JAAD), a 2010 study found that when patients with Hurley stage I or II HS used topical 15% resorcinol twice daily for 30 days, they saw a ‘marked decrease in pain and mean duration of the lesions’.
Below are the side-by-side results from the study. The first left-side image (A) is the patient’s baseline state, the second (B) is seven days into treatment, and the third image (C) is 30 days into the treatment. The right-side images (D, E, and F) are the respective lesions shown via ultrasonography.
Beyond the resorcinol, I spoke with my dermatologist about a medication called spironolactone for hidradenitis suppurativa treatment. Spironolactone is commonly used to treat acne and other similar skin disorders. Although HS is sometimes referred to as ‘acne inversa’, anyone with the condition knows that it’s not acne – not even close! That being said, HS may be similar to acne in the sense that it may be affected by hormones. Plus, a 2017 study of 46 women with HS found that acne and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) were the most commonly reported comorbidities with hidradenitis. The same study found that spironolactone was effective, even in small doses, for managing patients’ pain and inflammatory lesions.
Though I haven’t decided whether or not to move forward with spironolactone treatment yet, I thought it was interesting that there was a potential connection between HS and hormones, especially since I myself have adult acne and have had multiple ovarian cysts in the past. Plus, I have Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that may also have a hormonal component. I do notice that my hidradenitis boils do worsen on a pre-menstrual basis.
I also discussed with my dermatologist getting laser hair removal in the areas most commonly affected by HS – the groin and underarms. She did say that laser hair removal does help with the follicular occlusion aspect of the disease. Obviously, there are drawbacks – for example, laser hair removal is almost impossible to do in patients with Hurley stage III of the disease, because it’s simply too painful. It’s also not usually covered by insurance, since it’s considered a cosmetic procedure, rather than a medical one. But, it’s another option that I want to consider since I’m still at stage I of the disease, and would rather have laser hair removal than wide-excision surgery.
Do you have hidradenitis suppurativa? If so, what treatments have been most effective for you? Let me know in the comments below!