Yours probably aren't either. But you're not excited about it, I'm guessing, because yours weren't bright orange yesterday either. Or the day before that. Or on and off for the past nine months.
Mine? Were. All of those things: yesterday, the day before that, and on and off for the past nine months. But today they're not. They're still all sorts of fucked up, but they're not bright orange.
It started last fall with what I originally thought was a very sudden case of chapped lips. There were many reasons that self-diagnosis didn't make a ton of sense, but I was nursing and it seemed plausible that I was dehydrated and my lips were taking the brunt of it. But nothing you would think would help chapped lips had any effect and so I eventually went to the doctor who decided it must be a bacterial infection. Probably staph. After two rounds of antibiotics, things seemed to clear up.
And then a month passed, and it was back... only worse... and the antibiotics weren't helping. We (The Baby and I) were also suffering with thrush, an infection which he'd passed from his mouth to my nipples. I thought perhaps the yeast had made its way to my lips. (This was a theory I'd presented to my doctor, but he'd scoffed.) But the lip flare ups tended to coincide with vaginal yeast infections (Hi! TMI!) and so, on a hunch, I applied some of the yeast medication intended for my nipples to my lips. (Er. The ones on my face. Oy.) And, lo!, my lips cleared up.
And then a month passed, and it was back... only worse... and neither the antibiotics nor the yeast medication was helping. And by now my health insurance situation was all jacked (thanks, stupid former employer) and so going back to the doctor was something I couldn't afford. I kept applying the antibiotics, yeast medication, and Vaseline because I didn't know what else to do, and The Man recommended some supplements. Something - maybe just time - eventually worked, and the infection cleared up.
And then a month passed, and it was back...
I went through this cycle several times before getting in to see a different doctor, who diagnosed a skin irritation (which, you know, duh), and referred me to a dermatologist. She also prescribed yet another topical medication, which, after another two or three weeks, seemed to do the trick. I didn't bother following up with the dermatologist because a) no money and b) since my lips were back to normal, there wasn't anything for a dermatologist to look at.
Life was grand for about a month, and then I ate a nectarine. Two slices of a nectarine. Immediately my lips began to tingle and throb. Within 20 minutes, they were red and puffy. I applied the topical medication that had been last prescribed, but it had no effect other than burning like a mofo. By that night, a thin crust was covering my weeping lips.
Did you know lips can weep? I didn't either before all this shit happened. Remember those pink eye infections you got when you were a kid, and you'd wake up in the morning with your eyes glued shut? Now imagine that on your mouth.
Naturally, I tried to make an appointment with the dermatologist, but they were booked solid for the next two months. The only other place my shitty insurance covers was booked out two weeks, which was better except that THERE WAS SOME WEIRD ORANGY PUS-TYPE STUFF OOZING OUT AND CRUSTING ALL OVER MY LIPS. I could barely open my mouth to speak or eat. The pain was incredible (says the woman who birthed two children sans drugs). I couldn't imagine dealing for another two weeks and so I moved on to plan b: sobbing.
Luckily, I was able to write an email to my primary physician through my tears. Though no one in that office is a dermatologist, she recommended a couple who have dermatology experience and managed to get me in to see someone that day.
That day was yesterday. After going through the entire history, the latest doctor suspects two or three things are happening simultaneously:
- Both nursing and the hormonal cluster fuck of having a baby have left me dehydrated. Dry lips are susceptible to things like:
- Fungal infection (Quite possibly yeast. Take THAT scoffing doctor #1!)
- Contact reaction to certain foods. Like, for example, a nectarine.
Obviously the most recent attack was nectarine-related (option 3 for the win), but most of the previous attacks can not be so directly linked to a single event. In the past, the symptoms came on far more gradually. The doc believes any one of the three causes above could've led to any other of the three, so it's possible I've been dealing with a fungal infection and a contact reaction at the same time.
She prescribed yet another medication, which thankfully seems to be working, albeit very, very slowly. As of now, I can talk (but not smile) and I can eat (but very slowly and extremely carefully); the pain is manageable; and my lips are still a bit puffy, a bit red, and quite crusty.
But they are NOT bright orange.
Baby steps, people. Baby steps.