Louise King writes for Balmonds about her exciting new strategy for beating topical steroid withdrawal: a centre in Singapore that's treating TSW patients!
I remember the moment a TSW friend from L.A. messaged to say ‘have you heard about the clinic in Singapore?’ All Courtney had to mention was that they were treating TSW patients with regenerative laser and my mind was blown. I had heard of other TSW friendly doctors across the globe supporting sufferers – from Dr Rapaport with traditional methods such as emollients and immunosuppressants, to Dr Sato with Non-Moisture Treatment, but regenerative laser? This was new.
My first response was total glee, and then came the doubts. It’s a scam I thought, and us TSW folk are prone to a few. However, Courtney had booked her flight and suggested I do more research and even book a consultation with the Doctor in Singapore. This all came at a weird point in my withdrawal from topical steroids. I had passed a year without them, and it was the worst year of my life. Although things were substantially better, I still felt uneasy about using Dupxient to help dampen my symptoms. As you may well know, immunosuppressants were never an easy choice for me and I hated the thought of being reliant on something else. Personally, it had felt like a step backwards, even though I do believe they had saved me at my lowest point. I also had quite bad side effects (constant eye & skin infections) from the injectable drug and my severe fear of needles was making self-injecting difficult. If there was another way – I was interested.
Mum and I stayed up until 2am one night to accommodate the time difference and had our consultation with Skin Health Centre in Singapore. We spoke to Zack, the business manager and Jay – the Consultant treating TSW patients. One of my initial thoughts was ‘Wow, this guy knows more about TSW than I do’ and it felt like a dream. Jay explained that he had been treating TSW patients for 15 years, and Skin Health Centre had decided in recent years to make their TSW knowledge available beyond their outfit and communicate more online.
Image: TSW progress: Louise a year ago, and now
Dr Jay required us to explain my full steroid usage history; this wasn’t as easy as it sounds! He explained that I could heal naturally but that it would take a while due to my heavy usage of a prescribed class 1 steroid cream. He then confirmed that he could treat me, and I would be fully healed. In 6 months’, time I could have significant improvement with their HPBL treatment (also based on my steroid background with their High Pulse Blue Laser treatment)
I didn’t really need to hear anything else after that, and after sleeping on it I decided to put plans in place to move to Singapore. After seeing many photos of other patient’s progress on their social media, I was ready to give it a go. What did I have to lose? Besides quite a bit of money. Those of you who have travelled to Singapore will know it’s an expensive place and sadly this meant an expensive treatment plan too. I had weighed up the pros and cons and had finally decided that I was happy to dig deep into my pockets to get better. I just wanted to be free from TSW before my 30th birthday so I could enter the next chapter of my life without the constant pain, discomfort and fear. I was in a position to use my savings for a house deposit, which was sad at the time but I now believe it was the best option. Health really is the most important thing, and although I felt pissed off to even be in this position, I felt grateful to finally have light at the end of the tunnel. A big blue laser light 😊
I’ve had many questions about how much the treatment costs, and I can confirm that my personal treatment plan cost is the following:
- Singapore Dollars : $5,040 (just under £3,000 to us brits)
- This includes 12 sessions of 60 minutes, covering treatment areas of my face, neck, shoulders, scalp, arms and a bit of my legs.
- Obviously, this covers 3 month’s of treatment. If I’m required to stay for the full 6 months the price above will be doubled, but fingers crossed I heal quicker than expected. Dr Jay is accessing my skin improvements every week and will be able to confirm this later. It would be great to not have to spend the extra money, but really, I’m missing everyone like crazy - so the sooner I can get home, the better!
The following next weeks were crazy, especially as I worked full time right up until leaving and the fact that I had decided I wanted to film the whole experience too. I was lucky enough to get film maker & fellow TSW sufferer Jasmine on board with me to also travel to Singapore to create a documentary and had begun crowdfunding to support it. Nothing in small measures eh?
My first impressions of the clinic were great. It was smaller than I imagined but compact. It was nice to meet Zack and his team in person. As my parents had tagged along for our first 10 days in Singapore, they joined in on my first day which included a face to face consultation with Jay. Jay explained again what the steroid damage really meant with many hand drawn diagrams and explanations. He then explained how the laser would regenerate my damaged skin cells. I wish I could write down all of what he said but I think it would require a full-on lecture.
On first visit, I met many TSW sufferers of various severity coming through their door. I managed to speak to many of them. On my 2nd week here, before my parents returned to the UK, SHC introduced us to the local TSW Community, the community here is great in providing support to each other. We also met several other foreigners who flew in for treatment like us!
I will update soon on how the treatment is going but for now I want to say a massive thank you to Balmonds for sponsoring our Documentary-in-the-making ‘Our Prescribed Hell’ by offering to send tester pots for every donation we received. Your kindness won’t be forgotten! For updates on filming & our travels, please give @ourprescribedhell a follow-on Instagram.
References from https://www.skinhealthcentre.sg/high-pulse-blue-laser
For anyone interested in the costs of this treatment, the team has now added the following price list to their website: https://www.skinhealthcentre.sg/our-charges
Lots of love as always, Lou
Louise charts her TSW journey on Instagram @louigi.skin
Balmonds offer information and support, whether you’re going through topical steroid withdrawal, looking for safe long-term management strategies or wondering whether your symptoms match the condition. For more information about TSW, its symptoms and how to manage them, go to the ITSAN website. Other hashtags to follow for peer-to-peer support: #thisisnoteczema #tsw #TSWFab5
Current medical advice is not to use daily topical steroids continuously for more than two to four weeks; then the frequency should be tapered to twice weekly use.
Balmonds Skin Salvation makes a great emollient for dry skin during topical steroid withdrawal, if you're not following NMT (no moisture treatment): it's soft, gentle, natural and feeds dry, fragile skin with essential nutrients for healing.