Scratching the Surface of CIU

Luke is a young man living in Ottawa. He is married with a baby, has a great new job and, on the exterior, seems to live a pretty normal life. He has always been an athletic person, frequently playing soccer and going to the gym. But what people don’t know about Luke is that he has been battling chronic hives for 14 years.

Chronic hives, or Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria (CIU), can easily be mistaken for hives that appear during an allergic reaction, and in most cases, the cause is clear. CIU covers every inch of Luke’s skin when a breakout strikes. Having this condition recently lost Luke his job because he took too many sick days.

“It deteriorates your life,” says Luke.

CIU is rarely recognized, and often misdiagnosed as an allergic reaction, but Luke’s hives are recurring and little-understood. He has seen every specialist you can name from dermatologists to chiropractors. The health care options for someone with CIU are limited.

“I’m very skeptical for 90 per cent of the options out there because 90 per cent haven’t worked for me,” Luke says. “No one may see it, but I know it’s there.”

Being held back from something so simple as working out with your friends due to risk of overexertion is a constant struggle for Luke. He would like his friends to know that the reason he can’t be as physically active as he was, is not because he is lazy, but because these hives take over his entire life during a breakout.

Luke was 17 when he had his first breakout, right before his high school graduation trip. In the following years he would often hope that he’d outgrown his hives if they hadn’t reappeared in a little while, but then they would always come back. Important life milestones were now being altered into dreadful memories for Luke. CIU not only affects your physical state, but can have long emotional side effects that correspond with depression, due to the inability to feel comfortable going out and living your life.

Imagine yourself in the so-called ‘prime of your life’ and having to be isolated from social events and going out in public due to the discomfort of your own skin. Luke admits that he is self conscious about his disease, and while a lot of people in Luke’s life may not know what he’s experiencing, the online community for CIU is an outlet for most condition carriers. Luke has mentioned that the Sketch and Itch Campaign and Itching for Answers have been helpful resources that he recommends to anyone who may be going through the same situation.

Many drug treatments haven’t helped Luke. But there may just be hope, seeing as CIU research is currently under scrutiny. CIU sufferers may not know the cause, and they may not know the cure, but many hope the future will bring further details that shine a light on CIU.