California (USA): A 25-year-old California woman has been living with a rare and invisible illness for almost two decades now. Tessa Hansen-Smith has the rare condition of Aquagenic Urticaria, meaning she has developed “water allergy, a fact that she discovered when she was around 8 years old, and it has worsened over the years, reports abc7.com
“I would come out of showers and have huge welts on my skin, and my scalp would be bleeding after showering,” Hansen-Smith said. That made her try changing shampoos, soaps, and conditioners but to no avail. Even swimming in pools or in seawater she did with ease when she was a child, or taking baths or drinking lots of water like any other kid began giving her itching, rashes, and hives on her skin.
The satiety one feels after quenching thirst with a glassful of water eludes her. All she feels if she drinks it, is a burning sensation in her throat and body.
So what fluid can Tessa drink?
Milk is acceptable to her system because the water content in it is buffered by proteins, fats, and sugars.
Her mother Dr Karen Hansen-Smith feels guilty at times for not having diagnosed the water allergy or Aquagenic Urticaria earlier. “I feel a little guilty as a mom for not having seen when she would get out of the shower that she had hives and figuring it out way earlier that it was a water issue,” Dr Hansen-Smith told the correspondent at abc7.com.
Despite seeing several patients over the years and some with rather rare autoimmune conditions, Dr Karen Hansen-Smith finds it hard to watch her daughter battle one that is so rare that only 100 to 250 people have Aquagenic Urticaria worldwide.
“It is heartbreaking. I still have my daughter; she’s 25. She’s not living the life she wanted to live,” Karen said.
But Tessa is still a very positive person. Her positive perspective helped her attend UC Davis after graduating from Clovis Unified’s Buchanan High School – where she worked two jobs while juggling a full schedule of classes.
But that was taxing on her body and when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she returned home as college life became too risky with her compromised immune system.
She cannot jog, exercise, or play sports:
She takes walks but must avoid sweating too much, so she spends much of her days indoors, working on art, playing with her cats, and reading. No beaches in summer, and no pool parties, but she wants to stay positive and battle this isolation by penning a book to help others like her. She’s part of a book entitled “Chronically Empowered” and even appeared on the Dr. Oz show.
Tessa recently spent 12 days in hospital after becoming so dehydrated that she developed ischemic colitis, in which blood flow is blocked to the colon, resulting in a life-threatening condition.
For now, she takes antihistamines to alleviate the rashes, hives, and itching from contact with water while her parents stay connected to experts and researchers in the field who may have an answer for her as yet incurable disease.