The summer of 2014 brought Risa a series of what seemed like unrelated symptoms. First, her arms developed red blotches. A year later, her feet, toes and lower legs tingled and felt heavy as if she were wearing boots. Then Risa, who has lived with asthma for decades, suddenly developed significant breathing and swallowing difficulties and ringing in her ears. Most of these symptoms subsided on their own, perplexing many of her doctors and specialists.
Putting the Puzzle Together
Two years later, Risa coughed up a bloody clot that led to an initial diagnosis of a lung infection. However, after visiting a leading respiratory hospital, she learned her history of seemingly unrelated health issues were the hallmarks of a rare disease: Eosinophilic Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (EGPA) 152KB, formerly known as Churg-Strauss syndrome.
She learned that the red blotches are called purpura and are formed from white blood cells in the skin. Even the symptoms of her heavy feet, toes, and lower legs, ringing in the ears, and the difficulty swallowing were all related to her EGPA. Risa learned that all these seemingly unrelated symptoms were all part of the puzzle her care team needed to solve to get to the proper diagnosis.
EGPA affects about 5,000 people in the US. The disease is characterized by asthma, inflammation of blood vessels (vasculitis), and an increase in eosinophils, white blood cells that are a normal part of the immune system. In EGPA, the eosinophils become dysregulated and affect different parts of the body.
The EGPA diagnosis brought relief to Risa and her husband Mike because they finally knew what was happening in Risa’s body. They also learned EGPA has no cure, but that with the right treatment and a multidisciplinary care team Risa could manage her disease.
Life with EPGA
In reflecting on her diagnosis and her new treatment regimen, Risa says she has a new perspective on life.