(BPT) - For most of her life, 44-year-old Tanya Howell was considered unreliable. She missed many days of work, even lost jobs and would frequently cancel on her friends and family at the last minute. She was particularly devastated when she needed to cancel on group outings, because she loves exploring and conquering the outdoors. The reason for her ‘flakiness,’ a term many of Tanya’s friends used to describe her, was because she was suffering from unexplained, debilitating swelling attacks that would come on quickly and cause swelling in different parts of her body at any given time. Most often the swelling and excruciating pain were located in her abdomen. These seemingly uncontrollable attacks used to confine Tanya to her bed for several days at a time.
Tanya’s mysterious nightmare lasted for two decades and entailed visits to specialist after specialist in pursuit of an explanation for her swelling attacks along with frequent visits to the emergency room. Over the years, she was misdiagnosed with a litany of conditions including ‘muscular uterus,’ gall stones, ulcers and allergies. Despite her determination to find answers, healthcare providers had failed to pinpoint the cause for her seemingly helpless condition. This caused Tanya extreme frustration, and she even suffered from bouts of depression.
Two years ago, Tanya finally found an answer to her unexplained swelling attacks. She visited an allergist and immunologist who recognized her symptoms and accurately diagnosed her with hereditary angioedema (HAE), an extremely debilitating and potentially life-threatening disease that can rob people of educational and career opportunities and cause decreased overall mental and physical health. HAE is a rare genetic disease that affects about 6,000 people in the United States. The disease causes repeated swelling attacks that can occur anywhere in the body, including arms, legs, hands, feet, stomach, genitals, face or throat.
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