My view ...

The private blog of Andy Prevost. My experiences, my words. On any topic ...

Seborrhea, my treatment (seborrheic dermatitis)

Leading up to nearly the end of July 2016, my symptoms were absolutely out of control. The seborrhea symptoms included bright red skin blotches all over my face, behind my ears, and chin. Bright red – friends that only see me occasionally that caught a glimpse during these past few months commented they thought I was sun burned. Not sun burned (I don't get any sun), but the burning part was real. Not only was my skin bright red, but it felt on fire. Just as if someone had a lit match against my skin.

The redness would give way after a few hours to skin flaking. Just like dandruff and the flakes could range in size all the way to large enough pieces that could cover your thumb.

I was diagnosed with seborrhea (seborrheic dermatitis, or SD) when I was about 15 years old – that is at least 47 years ago.

Seborrhea wasn't that big of an issue for me over the years. I would end up with a flare up about once or twice a year, and it wouldn't last much more than a few weeks at a time. I preferred having a mustache from the time I was about 19 years old and on ... when the flare ups would kick in, I'd shave off the mustache. That was about the only real negative to me, those flakes looked horrible in my mustache around the ends of my lips. Shave and the flakes would be gone, and only a bit of redness would remain for a few days, possibly a week or so.

And, that was the extent up until five or six years ago. The seborrhea flare ups were more frequent, each lasting a few weeks.

And then we moved. After raising our family in the same home for over 30 years, it was time to downsize. We had installed a water softener and a filtration system for drinking water at that house. Our new one didn't have those. It wasn't an issue, though. The new home didn't have any hard water stains. The only thing we noticed was the smell of chlorine from the taps. Nothing really extensive, though, so we did nothing about it.

From the time we moved into our new home, the seborrhea symptoms grew in severity and frequency. By the time we were in the new home about six months, the seborrhea was nearly at its worst.

I started researching the issue – I was not prepared to use the prescription medicine on a regular basis. I didn't have an issue with the prescribed "corti-steroid" on an infrequent basis, but not on a regular basis. The other doctor recommended treatment was to use a dandruff shampoo and extend its use to all the areas affected by seborrhea. I ended up trying quite a few different brands and found that Nizoral shampoo to be the most effective. I would wash my hair and face several times with regular soap, and then use the Nizoral. Leaving the Nizoral in the hair and on the skin for at least two minutes is the key to this working – then rinsing off with clean water (easy if you are having a shower, not so easy when having a bath).

I discovered a few things about seborrhea. The flaking of seborrhea is from "sebum", that is the process by which our skin grows. The sebum kicks into high gear and causes excess skin to generate – that's the flaking or dandruff. The redness and oil produced in this process are from a fungus. This fungus (malassezia) is in the oil excreted on the skin.

Before anyone assumes this is a hygiene issue, this fungus (malassezia) is on everyone's skin. It just gets out of control and causes several health issues, including seborrhea. To see other health issues caused by malassezia, do a Google search. Malassezia is a fungus that can assume yeast form.

My research focused on locating products, preferably natural, to control or kill off the fungus – similar to the prescribed corti-steroid, a cream to control the fungus. I did find several products that had limited effect – but none that cried out for a eureka moment.

So, back to the research drawing board.

First, this most recent series of flare ups seemed to start when we moved to our new house. Next, bathing seemed to help remove the flakes and scaling of the skin. Next, bathing also seemed to worsen the redness for at least a few hours after finishing a bath. Next, some foods (or drinks) seemed to trigger a flare up – particularly the burning sensation.

I decided to focus my research and tests on the bathing part. It seemed unusual to me that the flare ups would be worse after just finishing a bath ...

I need to point out to anyone reading this that the first research and testing I did was "additive", that is adding a product to help clear or control the seborrhea. This next part is removing things to see if those "things" are the cause or trigger of the symptoms.

Let me explain my bathing procedures so we all have a baseline to start with.

I have diabetes (type 2) and idiopathic chronic pancreatitis. My pancreas has only about 1 to 2% functionality remaining. The defining symptom of pancreatitis is extreme pain – I use several strategies to control that pain, and that includes bathing with sodium bicarbonate and magnesium sulfate added to the bath water. I soak in that water for up to 20 minutes to get the benefits of those anti-inflammatory additives.

I removed the sodium bicarbonate from the next bath. The result is amazing – no more redness, flaking didn't start for at least 12 hours – BUT DID NOT LAST. I emphasize, removing the sodium bicarbonate did not last. It seemed to help but only for one single bath. After the second bath with the sodium bicarbonate removed, the seborrhea symptoms were back immediately and with a vengeance.

I had the exact same result from the second element removed: magnesium sulfate. After the first bath, relief. After the second bath, all symptoms were back and with a vengeance.

Hmmm ... this still seemed to be related to the baths, but all that remained was tap water. I wasn't adding anything else.

Since moving into this new house, we've sort of gone nose-blind to the chlorine. You get used to the smell and taste ... you just don't notice it. But, how would I get rid of chlorine out of my bath water? I didn't want to invest in an expensive solution at this point, at least not before determining the actual cause or trigger. I did a bit more research and found that I could get a shower head filter fairly inexpensively that would remove chlorine from a shower. I decided to try this and switch from baths to showers.


First shower: redness completely gone. Scaling and flaking didn't show up for 24 hours. That held for more than six showers, with the scaling and flaking reducing each time – meaning taking longer and longer to show up and less severe each time.

It is clear that chlorine is a trigger for seborrhea FOR ME. It may be for you as well, but you will need to do your own tests to determine that. I do know that I have done a lot more research on chlorine and find it deplorable that the use of chlorine is on the increase. It's a nasty additive that is toxic. You can read more about that here if you wish.

Despite limited funds these days, and still recovering from a heart attack, I decided to find an inexpensive whole house chlorine filter. I ended up locating a new unit at a reasonable price. It's from a friend of mine that has his own product for commercial accounts. His product is a water conditioner for hard water. All I wanted was a chlorine filter, so he offered to acquire one through his distributor and at his wholesale price. I ended up with a unit that has a 20-year lifespan and guarantee. But, I was on the hook to install it myself. He did recommend a plumbing company and I asked them to come in to do the installation. My friend also offered his commercial water conditioner product at cost, so I decided that add that on. Overall the two products purchased were less than the low priced solutions I had been quoted by local water companies.

I was taken a bit by surprise by the plumbing company. They charge $79 just to come out and knock at your door. For that price, they will "diagnose" your issue and provide you an estimate – they are prepared to start the work immediately though. And, the $79 is not deducted from the final bill.

The estimate from this company to install the water conditioner and the chlorine filter system: $770, plus taxes. Huh? SEVEN HUNDRED AND SEVENTY?

I'm not a plumber. Not even close. I've done some home plumbing projects on my own ... but trust me, I don't even claim that they were done right or anywhere near as fast as a professional plumber. But, I can take a fairly educated guess that I was about to be robbed blindly. By my estimate, this project would have taken less than 2 hours to complete by a professional, and require about $50-60 worth of additional parts to complete.

After a discussion with the plumber that was sent, he called his dispatcher and gave me the great news that they could drop the price down to $660 (plus taxes and plus the $79 initial fee). Really? still $660 + ?????

By my calculation, that worked out to $60 worth of parts, and at least $300 per hour to do this job. He called his supervisor and discussed the pricing with him. Result: he said $660 was pretty much "cost" ...


I decided to try this myself, planning to get an early start on a Saturday and allow enough time to call in an emergency plumbing service if needed.

I found a local plumbing supplier and bought two 90 degree PEX elbows and two pass-through (straight) PEX connectors. Total cost $61.

I was planning to start on Saturday at 8 am ... but didn't actually get off my duff until 10:45 am. I asked my wife to help – mainly to monitor me (I am still recovering from a heart attack – didn't want to push myself too hard). I first shut off the main. My wife started at the second floor and opened cold and hot water faucets as well as flushed the toilet. Same on the main floor. In the basement, I opened up the cold and hot water on the laundry sink. After that was done, we waited about two minutes after all the water had stopped running. While waiting, I cut and connected all the PEX pipe, elbows, and straight connectors – except for the two connections on the as-yet-uncut main line.

I setup a pail under the main water inlet, planning to cut the PEX ¾" pipe just above the pail. My wife held the pail right beside where I was planning on cutting the PEX pipe in the main. I cut it and quickly shifted it over the pail: only two drops of water came out. Our draining strategy worked well.

I connected the inlet port and outlet port of the chlorination filter to the main pipe. On the outlet port, I had already installed the water conditioner element.

From the start of this, to this point where everything was now connected back up: total of 15 minutes.

The next step was to open the inlet valve on the chlorine filter – and then test all of this by turning the water back on at the main. Fingers crossed: all worked fine, no drips anywhere, no leaks.

Next, time to open the outlet valve on the chlorine filter. This would get water flowing through all the pipes. So, before opening that valve, my wife went up to the top floor of the house, prepared to shut off the faucets after a minute or so of water flow. Then she did the same on the main floor. Then she returned to the basement, and we watched as water flowed through the laundry facuet. Some of the early water flow included residual black color from the charcoal "charge" in the chroline filter tank. That only lasted a few seconds though, and then clear water. We let the water flow while the air expelled from having drained the system.

After shutting off the faucets, I installed the backwash drain pipe from the chroline filter unit to the laundry sink. That took no time at all.

We then shut off the water main and turned off the breaker to the hot water tank. We connected a garden hose to the hot water tank and drained as much of that hot water as possible (the hot water tank was still full of the chlorinated water from prior to the chlorine filter installation – we wanted to start with as little of the old chlorine in our water system as possible).

Once that was done, I shut off the valve on the hot water tank, turned the water main back on, and turned on the breaker to get power to the hot water heater.

All that remained was to empty the ice cube maker of the ice cubes made with chlorinated water and let that process start over again.

My wife and I did all of this and finished at 12 noon. Total time to get this done: one and one-quarter hours. By an old geezer recovering from a heart attack.

To the plumbing company that quoted $770 to do this (and reduced their estimate to $660): hope you can see my one-finger wave. And, I'm smiling, knowing that I have at least $600 cash still on my side of the ledger.

To everyone else: I've now been symptom free of the seborrhea redness, burning, scaling and flaking for almost two weeks. It's clear that chlorine triggers a seborrhea flare up for me. Medical research also shows that it is a trigger for seborrhea and many other skin and internal diseases.

Be careful when reading about products that "cure" seborrhea. Many of the solutions I read about are temporary relief only, most are absolutely absurd and would cause faster and more severe flare ups.

And to the person that read my tests with the shower filter: wake up, the issue is not hard water (hard water contains magnesium that would help control the fungus). The issue with bathing and showering is chlorine. Suggesting that people rinse their hair with inexpensive 8 oz bottles of water is just dumb. If you are struggling financially, you can get a shower head chlorine filter that will work just as effectively for about $25. The filter needs to be replaced every 4 to 6 months, but it is far more convenient and cheaper than buying bottled water to rinse your hair/face.

Categories: Health

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A heart attack

I was totally oblivious to the possibility of a heart attack, or even the symptoms – and how to tell if it is in progress.

Despite this, I am lucky. While going through a heart attack, I managed to drive myself and my wife to the hospital. Her concerns about driving didn't really strike me, I had doubts about the symptoms truly being a heart attack. So, I went ahead and drove with a promise that if I felt worse I would pull over and call an ambulance on my cell phone. I managed to get to the hospital.

Never again. I'll describe the symptoms and what happens (at least to me) and advise you: if you go through something similar, do not hesitate – call an ambulance. If you drive, you are putting yourself (and everyone else on the road) in danger. I was lucky, but will never repeat this again.

Here's how it all started. I had been feeling poorly for three days. I can't define it any better than that – just felt "not right". Not much in the way of energy, wanted to rest a lot. On the fourth day, I decided to get off my a** and get something done. Sitting on the sofa just isn't me. To the backyard I went and pruned several trees (looks great now, by the way). I was out there for a few hours, cutting and gathering the tree limbs and leaves. It was a hot day and felt a slight tightness in my upper chest – right in the middle. Just above the tightness I felt a not near-burning sensation. Thinking I was just over doing it in the heat, I asked my wife for a cold drink of water. Didn't help. Neither did a second.

I persisted and cut down a few more tree branches and gathered them into the pile.

Sat down to rest and asked for more water. The tightness and hot throat sensation did not go away. My arms were already feeling heavy – but I was also lifting a reciprocating saw and climbing a ladder to get to the branches. I thought it just natural that my arms would feel a bit heavy after all that work. However, I noticed a slight tingling and numbness in my left arm – just below the shoulder to just past the elbow.

I turned to my wife and mentioned this. "Maybe we should go to the hospital, this might be a heart attack", I told her. "Ah, never mind, I don't think it is.". Another gulp of water, and no easing of symptoms. "Sorry, dear, I think we need to go to the hospital. I may be wrong, but would rather be safe ..."

Here's where it gets stupid. I really wasn't sure of the symptoms. I had never heard them described this way. I expected a lot more pain. I expected a near-blackout experience. My thoughts were that going to the hospital was more preventive than necessary. That's why I decided to drive myself (my wife does not drive). Dumb idea. Not only did I put myself and my wife at risk, I also put everyone else on the road at risk. An ambulance or anyone else to drive you to get medical assistance is the right way to do this.

When we arrived at the hospital, I pretty much had to tell them my entire medical history. Despite this being a long weekend, there really wasn't many people in the waiting room and we got in fairly quickly.

I was on a heart monitor quickly. The nurse took poked me about half a dozen times to find a vein that would give her enough blood for the lab tests. My veins are pretty much all collapsed from years of being poked for blood donations and my own health issues over the past ten or so years. Not only collapsed, there are tons of scars. Just from this past weekend, I now have about a dozen new bruises and a new "divot". One of the nurse's attempts was quite painful. My left wrist is now swollen and deep green/blue – nurse called it a "blown out vein" ...

Blood tests confirmed the presence of troponin ... an enzyme that is present with a heart attack.

Next process was a procedure called an angiogram. That is invasive. They inject a dye near the heart and then monitor how much of that dye gets through each vein and artery. That is how they determine the percentage of blockage. In there is blockage, they can insert a stent during the same procedure. If the blockage is extensive, they will schedule a separate procedure for bypass surgery.

Before the angiogram, they prep you by shaving your wrist (right hand). They also shave your groin area ... that is just in case the wrist is unsuitable to insert the probe to deliver the dye. Uh ... shave my groin area? Gheez, 'lil Andy now looks like a grub worm with a mohawk. If the wrist insertion point does not work, they have two additional areas they can insert the probe. The first would be on the right side of the groin, the second on the left side of the groin.

An angiogram takes roughly one hour. You are given an anesthetic at the insertion point (wrist) ... other than slight discomfort, you really don't feel much. They also give you a general "happy" injection – you are still aware, but really don't care. During the hour long operation, the biggest issue is slight claustrophobia from all the monitors and devices circling near your head and upper chest area. Once the procedure is done, the doctor will let you know the result of the procedure.

Then it is off to the recovery room for at least two hours.

Now the painful part kicks in ... my wrist was used for the probe. They cut into the skin and cut an artery – the probe is inserted into the artery and then winds its way up your arm and across your chest to your heart. Once they remove the probe, they have to make sure the artery is well healed and sealed. To do that, they use a plastic clamp. That's the painful part. Gheez, that thing hurts. There just isn't a comfortable position where it doesn't hurt. Fortunately, for most of the two hours in the recovery room, the "happy" injection has not completely worn off, but it still hurts. The clamp is on for 1 hour and 15 minutes. They then gradually loosen the clamp over a 50 minute period until it is completely off – they then replace the clamp with a compression bandage. The compression bandage hurts a bit.

You can't eat while waiting for the angiogram. Waiting could take anywhere up to 12 hours. They are keenly aware of the hunger and have a meal ready for you after the operation. My operation ended at about 10:40 pm. I was looking forward to eating, but my meal had been prepared seven hours earlier and the nurses threw it out. I ended up with the kitchen dregs ... a dried out sandwich and a sealed piece of cheese and sealed small portion of diced peaches.

Throughout all this process, you are on a heart monitor. Depending on the department you are in, there are different heart monitors and each department only use their own preferred device. In the emergency department, I had three: one from the sub-acute department, one from the acute department. When they transferred me to a hospital room, the acute department actually changed the heart monitor to a portable unit while I was waiting for transportation to the room. In the cardiac ward, I was on a full size device, alternated to a portable device to go to the operating room, put on a different portable device for about 10 minutes while I waited my turn on the operating table, and then another portable device while being transported back to my room, and then a plugged-in device from that point on until released.

From the operating room, I was put on an IV drip. It was ordered for a total of 12 hours. Noisy device that woke all my room mates at about 3 am when I turned and compressed the IV line.

The hospital release process takes a few hours. They go through your new pills and all the warnings that go with that.

Even though this is normally a two or three day process, ask someone to bring you your own night clothes, fresh clothing, and their help to get you cleaned up. You can't do it on your own, and it is not the hospital's responsibility to make sure you wash, brush your teeth, or smell nice.

I have a good sense of humour. Having a heart attack didn't take that away.

There were several times that I wanted to get to the bathroom. I didn't feel like using a bed pan or urinal. So, I unplugged everything and went to the washroom. That brings the nursing staff to your bedside awful fast ... "dang thing kept flat lining", I said. "I unplugged it and went to the mirror to check I was still breathing" ... LOL.

The doctor that performed the angiogram had a good sense of humour too. He has to go through a process before starting so that you understand the risks and everything involved. When he was done, he asked if I had any questions. "Sure do", I said. "Were you drinking today?". Without batting an eye, he held out a trembling hand and said "just enough to calm this down ... oh, dang". We both roared laughing.

I did have a favourite nurse ... and she had a great sense of humour too. After recovery, the IV drip machine started beeping around 3 am. She came and quietened the device. I watched the buttons she pressed. When it happened again around 7 am, I pressed the same button – not the same effect though, beeping got faster. When she got there, I said I had tried all the different buttons. "You didn't find the 'blow up' button obviously, you are still here" ... LOL

A few jokes at the end before I went home ...

I want to emphasize that a heart attack or the possibility of a heart attack is no laughing matter. The process may last a few seconds, a few hours, or a few days. Ignoring it could end all that waiting for you. This is a dead serious issue. Become familiar with the symptoms and what to do about them.

Categories: Health

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Smoke Cessation

Smoke Cessation. Quitting Smoking. Butting out. I think I started looking for ways to quit smoking not long after I started. I was a teen and the very first shirt I bought with my own money got a burn hole from a cigarette ember. Nice big hole too with darkened burn mark edges.

You could always tell who the smokers were. Burn holes in shirts, coats, jeans. Look at the gloves ... burn marks on the fingers. Same with cars, burn marks in the seats (if you got lucky, you could wipe it away quickly, burn your fingers, and only have a char mark on the seat ...).

Most embarassing burn mark? Brand new girl friend and I was smoking in her parents' house. I was laying down in the living room, ash tray close by ... and the cigarette slipped off the ash tray onto the carpet. Oh gawd, oh gawd, oh gawd ... what the hell do I do now? Not only was this a new relationship, it was one of the first times at her house ... and a brand new carpet too. Most embarassing. Not sure why, but they didn't kill me. And, for some odd reason, they let me marry that gorgeous girl too ...

Over the next 40 + years, quitting smoking became a joke. I had all kinds of people wanting to support me to quit smoking.

"How's the smoking coming along?", they would ask. My reply was the joke: "Coming along fine, just fine. It's the quitting part that has me stumped!" ... really funny.

Smoking took its toll. For at least the last twenty years of smoking, I was coughing regularly. Coughing in the morning brought up some interesting colors. I was in the corporate world and had some brand new suits I only wore once and burned holes in them. New white shirts and ties with burn marks, worn only a few times. I think back to having meals and drinks with customers and being the first one to light up. Gheez, what the hell was I thinking. Ruining my health and offending my clients. And that didn't even open my eyes to the smoking issues.

What eventually opened my eyes to the drastic health issues was being diagnosed with diabetes type 2 and Idiopathic Chronic Pancreatitis. Research shows that smoking is a cause of pancreatitis – mine is diagnosed as idiopathic (meaning no known cause), but I am fairly certain smoking was the cause.

I never succeeded with any smoke cessation strategy. I took seminars lasting up to 8 weeks in a group "buddy" setting. I end up quitting for a few weeks, and then light up again. That seemed to be the way it always worked. Quit for a few weeks and start right back up again. I tried cold turkey, Champix, hypnosis, Zyban, acupuncture, Nicorette patch, Nicorette Gum, Nicorette Inhaler (well just about every Nicorette product made including the lozenges, etc). Nothing worked.

That is, until I discovered a vaping kit that a local vape shop clerk taught me how to use. The clerk showed me how to fill and refill the atomizer, change the coil, start and shut down the battery, press the fire button, inhale, etc. The clerk even helped me pick the right e-liquid, nicotine strength, and quantity to start with.

Since that day, I haven't had a cigarette. That was years ago and I have gradually reduced the nicotine strength. 

Vaping is not promoted for smoke cessation. I know of no manufacturer or retailer that will claim vaping will help you quit smoking. Quite the contrary, it is promoted as an alternative to smoking. A healthier alternative. There are only four ingredients: Propylene Glycol, Vegetable Glycerine, flavorings, and nicotine. None are carcinogens. Is it healthy? Not by a long shot, healthy would be to just breathe air. But it is healthier than smoking. Far more healthy.

I vape for quite a few years and enjoyed it. It only took a few weeks after I started vaping to get my sense of taste and smell back. Only a few weeks to improved sleep and more energy. Only a few weeks to start feeling "different" ... better blood circulation, lower blood pressure. And no more burn  holes (no combustion).

I am now at the point where I still vape. My E-Liquid only has two or three ingredients now (no nicotine). I've broken the nicotine addiction, but still enjoy the different flavors. Quite frankly, I'm not sure if that is because I am diabetic and enjoy some of the sweet fruit flavors. I suspect it has a lot to do with it. But, I am also vaping a lot less than I used to. I used to go through three or four batteries each day. Now 1 battery will last more than 1.5 days.

I know the government doesn't want to hear about vaping and how it can help you quit. Vaping wasn't designed to help you quit, it was invented by Hon Lik as an alternative to smoking (for this father). All of us vapers have used it that way – as an alternative to smoking. I know many vapers that have completely switched from smoking to vaping and never touched another cigarette after switching. I know many that have completely eliminated nicotine too. Many still vape and many have quit vaping altogether.

It really doesn't matter if you switch to vaping or are a dual user (smoking and vaping). Vaping is tobacco harm reduction. Each cigarette you can avoid saves you from 7000+ nasty chemicals and 70+ known carcinogens in tobacco cigarettes. Each time you light up a cigarette, cigarillo or pipe, you are accelerating your expiry date. Avoid just one cigarette, and you add a few minutes to your life. Time that you will get to spend with your spouse, kids, and grandkids ... and likely their spouses too.

You won't get governments or health agencies to help you quit. Their strategies are the pharmaceutical solutions that have a success rate less than 7% after one year. That's the best they can do ... and it's also the best they WANT to do. There's a lot of money being made on pharmaceutical solutions – they cost you and your insurance company more than tobacco products. There is no incentive for governments to get us to quit, the bulk of money tobacco products are sold for go directly to government. More than 66% in Canada and nearly the same in other countries and jurisdictions. Governments are reliant on tobacco revenue – so much so that they will block strategies that do work to help  you quit smoking.

I chose vaping as an alternative to smoking, I used vaping to quit smoking, I used vaping to quit nicotine on my own time line. In my first year of vaping, I saved over $3000. I saved even more every year after that – money that went to fund vacations, toys, and enhance living. Money that I did NOT contribute to government tobacco revenue. Money, I am proud to say, that stayed with me.

Vaping can work for you too.

Categories: Tobacco Harm Reduction

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