Tag Archives: health

The International Pemphigus & Pemphigoid Foundation (IPPF) and the entire pemphigus and pemphigoid community would like to thank the House Energy and Commerce Committee for its non-partisan approval yesterday of the 21st Century Cures Act by a vote 51-0.

This legislation has important significance to our community as it will help modernize and personalize healthcare, support disease research, encourage innovation, and improve patient access to treatment. The bill, a year-long in the making, was championed by committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO).

H.R. 6, the 21st Century Cures Act, has been sent to the House or Senate for full consideration. The IPPF urges you to contact your Representatives and ask them to support this legislation.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee (HELP) is currently working on it’s own version of the initiative called America’s Leadership in Medical Innovation for Patients, led by Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN). The IPPF will keep you aware of the latest developments as they occur but we also encourage you to reach out to the following Senators to express the urgency in creating legislation that will benefit you and all rare disease patients.

Republicans by Rank
Lamar Alexander (TN)
Michael B. Enzi (WY)
Richard Burr (NC)
Johnny Isakson (GA)
Rand Paul (KY)
Susan Collins (ME)
Lisa Murkowski (AK)
Mark Kirk (IL)
Tim Scott (SC)
Orrin G. Hatch (UT)
Pat Roberts (KS)
Bill Cassidy, M.D. (LA)

Democrats by Rank
Patty Murray (WA)
Barbara A. Mikulski (MD)
Bernard Sanders (I) (VT)
Robert P. Casey, Jr. (PA)
Al Franken (MN)
Michael F. Bennet (CO)
Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)
Tammy Baldwin (WI)
Christopher S. Murphy (CT)
Elizabeth Warren (MA)

For information on 21st Century Cures, go to: http://energycommerce.house.gov/markup/full-committee-vote-21st-century-cures-act

For information on the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee (HELP) go to: http://www.help.senate.gov/

If you would like to get more involved in pemphigus & pemphigoid advocacy, please contact Marc Yale, Peer Health Coach marc@pemphigus.org.

Thank you for your support!

Having a flare after being in remission can be a scary and frustrating experience. Thoughts run through your head about your previous experiences and you may wonder if your disease will be as bad as it was before. When you have the flare, it is important to recognize it and take the challenge head-on. It’s easy to become stressed from the uncertainty and lack of control, but remember that stressing will only make things worse. Here are some tips to reduce the intensity and time that you may have the flare.

1.      Schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately.

2.      Have your doctor give you a clinical diagnosis or get a biopsy done to confirm the flare. There are many differential diagnoses for your disease so you want to be sure it is what you suspect.

3.      Discuss with your doctor a treatment strategy and begin right away.

4.      Track your disease activity in a log, this will help you determine if you condition is improving.

5.      Follow up with your doctor regularly and advocate for yourself. Seeing your doctor every 4-6 weeks is recommended. If you have an aggressive flare you may need to see your doctor more frequently.

6.      If you need support, contact the IPPF and talk with a Peer Health Coach. Coaches are available to answer questions and help you decide how to best handle your flare.

It is common for flares not to be as intense as your first experience with the disease, but all patients have different experiences. The important thing is to be proactive and stabilize the disease activity as soon as possible. Flares are part of living with pemphigus and pemphigoid but if they are handled quickly and with a positive attitude you can eliminate them sooner.

Remember, if you have questions to “Ask a Coach” because when you need us we are in your corner!

Results So Far

I had a follow-up appointment with Dr. Williams on July 17, 2014, one month after my first infusion and two weeks after the second. She looked at me and I swear her jaw dropped. She was amazed by how well I had responded. That was a fun appointment!

Jack Sherman 7

She had consulted Dr. Anhalt shortly before my treatment. Dr. Anhalt suggested going off of azathioprine a month after my second infusion (August 1), and to start a slow prednisone taper. I asked Dr. Williams if I should stop taking azathioprine now, two weeks before we were planning. We agreed I should stop taking it. One drug down!

Since then I haven’t taken azathioprine. Better yet, I’ve been on a continual prednisone taper. I started on 25 milligrams every other day. A week later, on July 23, 2014 (three weeks after my second infusion) I took these pictures. I was completely lesion free! I was ecstatic to say the least. This far exceeded my wildest dreams!

In January 2014 I am down to 2 milligrams of prednisone, every other day! This is the lowest dosage of prednisone I have ever been on. The best news is my skin is completely void of lesions. Sure I’ve had one or two minor ones, but nothing that doesn’t clear up quickly. Pretty amazing considering where I started.

I’m not claiming remission — yet! While it’s easy to be confident about my recovery, I prefer to say I’m very optimistic about my future living with pemphigus. What I have learned over the years about this disease is things can change pretty quickly. I could end up in total remission, or I could end up needing another round of Rituximab. Either way, I believe I will be better off than had I not opted for rituximab. For that I’m very grateful!

 Continued Support and Education

Each individual is just that, an individual. These diseases aren’t like more common diseases, like Type II Diabetes. If you go to 10 doctors after a diabetes diagnoses you will probably hear the same thing and expect the same results. With pemphigus and pemphigoid being rare, ultra orphan autoimmune diseases, your results and advice will likely vary.

Even though I’m a Peer Health Coach, Marc Yale has continued to be my coach. I can’t thank him enough for his time, knowledge and support he’s given me over the years. My goal is to help patients like Marc has helped me, and share this knowledge with them each and every day. Reach out to the IPPF and use its wealth of knowledge and patient resources. If you can attend the IPPF Patient Conference, I encourage you – I implore you – to go. The information and fellowship really does make a difference!

In the end, my biggest piece of advice to you is to be proactive in you care and treatment. Work with your physicians and create a team committed to your success. Share what you learn from your coach, attending a conference, or from a conference call with your doctor. Ask them to contact the IPPF who will connect them with a P/P expert. Whatever you do, it’s your health and quality of life at stake, so make informed, educated decisions. I did and couldn’t be happier!

Good luck, and good health to you all!

Part One
Part Two

When you experience disease activity in your mouth it can be quite uncomfortable.  Patients may experience blisters anywhere inside the oral area: inside of cheeks, upper and underside of tongue, roof of mouth, and as far back as where the uvula is. The gums can peel as well.

Swallowing can be difficult. If this occurs for you, having anything soft is advised. For example, smoothies, yogurt, mashed potatoes, cream of wheat, etc. Avoiding citrus fruits is recommended, as that can agitate your oral lesions.

If your gums are peeling, ask your dermatologist if he/she can prescribe to you a topical corticosteroid. A ‘Magic Mouthwash’ can also be prescribed.

Try not to use alcohol-based mouthwashes as it can be uncomfortable to your lesions. Gentle toothpastes such as Sensodyne or Toms of Main can still be too harsh. If those products are irritating your lesions try going the old-fashioned route of using a paste of baking soda and water.

The use of straws is not recommended if you have flare-ups in the mouth as this can irritate them.

The IPPF suggests that you keep a food journal, so that if a flare-up occurs you can look at the list of foods you have consumed prior to the flare-up and determine which food or spice could be the culprit.

Keep your gums as healthy as possible by using a waterpik on a low speed, and use a very soft toothbrush. Regular dental checkups should be continued as normal, and if you’re going to have any dental work done advise your dermatologist. Depending on the level of activity you have and the medications you are taking, your dosage may be increased a few days prior and a few days after the procedure.  Advise your dentist of this, as well.

Remember, when you need us we are in your corner!

Mei Ling Moore – Peer Health Coach

With pemphigus and pemphigoid, painful oral lesions frequently occur in the mouth and throat. This causes difficulty when drinking or eat- ing solid foods. Let’s face it — it can be just painful! Assessing your individual tolerance to foods and ad- justing what you are eating will enable you to bet- ter understand which foods to eat and which foods to avoid. For many P/P patients, highly seasoned, acidic, or salty foods are irritating. As are foods that are dry, sticky, or abrasive because they can be difficult to swallow. Extremes in temperatures of liquids or sol- ids, such as ice cream or hot chocolate, may cause pain for some. In the case of severe mouth sores, I recommend using a blender or food processor. Here are a few helpful hints to remember:

  •   Drink liquids through a straw.
  •  Cook coarse or hard foods, such as vegetables, until they are soft and tender.
  •  Soften or moisten foods by dipping them in gravies or cream sauces.
  • Sip a beverage when swallowing solid food.
  •     Eat small meals more often instead of one large meal.
  • Rinse your mouth with water while eating (or use water, peroxide, or Biotene afterwards).

• Remove food and bacteria to promote healing.

Having oral lesions can present many challenges including; pain manage- ment, oral hygiene, nu- tritional intake, and your overall health. Speak with your doctor about ways to help relieve the pain. Also make sure they monitor your blood sugar levels if you are taking systemic steroids. Don’t for- get to inform your dentist of your condition and ask them to use caution when treating you. If you have difficulty swallowing, or find yourself frequently choking on food, talk to your doctor. You may want to ask to be seen by an ENT to help deter- mine the extent of your disease activity. With pemphigus and pemphigoid, the mouth is one of the most difficult areas to treat and requires due diligence. Changing your behavior and habits can be the biggest “pain” but will eventually pay off. If you need help, encouragement, or suggestions… just “Ask a Coach!”

Can you believe the 2012 Holiday Season is a few calendar page turns away? I barely remember Summer beginning — let alone ending in a few weeks.  But here we are in September and the whirlwind of activity throughout our community has kept us busy. The IPPF has a new home and our good friend and IPPF Founder Janet Segall, paid us a visit. She liked the atmosphere and accommodations and asked me to tell everyone hello, so, “Janet says, ‘Hello everyone!’” The IPPF Fundraising Committee has been successful in get- ting funds for our Awareness Campaign (see page 8). Since most P/P patients have oral lesions, this three-year awareness program targets dentists in training and in practice with the hopes of reducing the diagnosis time from the five-physician, 10-month cycle to a single visit (maybe two) during the first few months. Keep up the great work, Team! Our Registry is key to unlocking the mysteries of pemphigus and pemphigoid.

The information we have is compelling, but more information is better. I ask each of you to take 15 minutes and complete the Registry. We need FEWER THAN 300 more people to surpass 1,000 participants and give researchers a better understanding of P/P. Your contact information is NEVER shared and when we look at the responses, all we see is a number, not a name; a state/province, not an address. Can YOU help us pass 1,000 by the next issue? I think you can at www.pempihgus.org/registry. The 2013 Patient Conference (formerly the Annual Patient/Doctor Meeting) will be in San Francisco, April 26-28, 2013. The Planning Committee is looking to capi- talize on the success in Boston — and we think San Francisco is the place to do it. If you have never been to the Bay Area, there is no better time that April 2013. And if you live in the Bay Area, join us at Stanford September 29, 2012 for the Bay Area Sup- port Group Meeting (11 am – 2 pm, pemphig.us/ippf-basg-201209). The Holiday Fundraiser will be gearing up in a couple of months and I am challeng- ing each and every one of you to find one person to match your donation. Imagine if 2,000 people gave just $50 — and their one friend gave $50. These donations will af- ford us the opportunity to have more Peer Health Coaches to answer your questions, more informational materials for physician offices, more educational materials for patients – and the list goes on … but we need your help to make 2013 bigger and bet- ter than 2012. And don’t forget you can now give a monthly amount  that is automat- ically deducted from your credit card. How about giving $25 a month instead of $100 all at once? It’s just as easy and makes a big impact for us – and a bigger tax deduc- tion for you! You can always donate online at www.pemphigus.org/donate. Thank you for your continued support and we hope you enjoy this issue.