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Aromatherapy Helped Her Pustular P
from Susan B.

Hi Ed: I'm really new to the internet so I'm not very confident about how to search for things or what to do when I find them. I found your site by doing a 
search for plantar pustulosis. There wasn't much, and it seemed to be mostly in German or Spanish.

I live in Scotland, where we have the National Health Service (i.e., you don't pay for healthcare except prescriptions, but you often have to wait and wait and wait for an appropriate referral). For a year and a half, my doctor was convinced that I had athlete's foot (left foot only) and prescribed increasingly serious medications to control it, none of which did any good because it turned out, after I finally got a specialist appointment, to be plantar pustulosis. They gave me permanganate tablets to make up into a nightly foot bath and also nerisone cream, which is a steroid cream. Neither did very much for me, and they finally decided I would need phototherapy (light treatment) which would involve my having to travel up to the hospital twice a week for seven weeks, and they said the only alternative was more steroids, but that it was a condition which would only go into remission, could not be cured, and there was no guarantee whether the light treatment would be effective. I refused that treatment, as it would have interfered with my work too severely. That is literally all the information they could/would give me.

A few days later, a client of mine who is an aromatherapist offered me some free treatments to my feet, and this made a huge difference: first a solution of tea tree and lavender, and subsequently others, plus I applied a cream made up of vitamin E and aloe vera. The main affected area — the middle portion of my foot from just below the ankle right across the bottom of my foot, isn't fully clear, and I've had a small outbreak on one toe and on my heel, which don't seem to be getting worse or better — which to me is progress. I have found what appear to be a few pinpricks of pustules on my right big toe which I'm treating in the same way, and that too doesn't seem to be getting either better or worse.

I'm writing to try to find out whether there are other non-prescription treatments I could try, and whether it is really the case — as I was told in the hospital — that no commercially available light therapy is appropriate. I'm female, in my forties, ex-smoker (stopped 8 or 9 years ago), don't seem to have either arthritis, diabetes or thyroid difficulties (though late-onset diabetes runs in my family). Any information you can give would be hugely appreciated, and I'd like to emphasize that the aromatherapy made a HUGE difference right away, which became much less dramatic over time, but which really gave me hope. Maybe others would like to try it too.

Thanks again, -Susan B.


Ed’s Response: "Plantar pustulosis" is also known as localized pustular psoriasis. It is described in the National Psoriasis Foundation’s booklet titled "Specific Forms of Psoriasis" like this:

"...Characterized by large (up to .5 cm, or about the size of a pencil eraser) pustules in fleshy areas of the hands and feet, such as the base of the thumb and the sides of the heels. The pustules appear in a studded pattern throughout reddened plaques of skin, then turn brown and peel.... Topical treatments (such as corticosteroids under occlusion) are usually prescribed first, but PPP often proves stubborn to treat. PUVA, acitretin (Soriatane), methotrexate or cyclosporine sometimes must be used to clear this form. Combination treatment with PUVA and Soriatane (RePUVA) may also be effective for PPP." 2000 National Psoriasis Foundation

I think it’s interesting that your doctors suggested "the only thing remaining" for you to try was phototherapy — especially in light of this quote which suggests the popular systemics (soriatane, methotrexate, cyclosporine) are often used for PPP.

I’ve heard more about "tea tree" for flaking in the last four months than I’d heard in all the years preceding. So I wasn’t surprised to hear you had luck soaking in the tea tree and lavender solution. (See More Good Luck with Tea Tree.)

There are, as you’ve probably learned by now, countless non-prescription treatments people have tried for all varieties of psoriasis. Probably the best way to "get a handle on" the possibilities is to join the National Psoriasis Foundation (Scotts are welcome!). They have a column titled "It Works for Me" in one of their periodicals, the Resource and, as a member, you could also receive from them a copy of The Best of It Works for Me, 1991-1999 (softbound book).

Stay tuned in here, Susan, and keep us informed. -Ed

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