Vicki Lawrence is known for her big laughs in TV sitcoms like The Carol Burnett Show and Mama's Family, but behind all the funny lines and costumes, she has struggled with a form of chronic hives called chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU).
Dr. Manny Alvarez, senior managing health editor of FoxNews.com, recently sat down with the Emmy-award winning actress to talk about her role in raising awareness about CIU.
“It just affects every area of your life,” Lawrence told FoxNews.com. “I think for people that are dealing with this out there, the important thing to know is that this is real. It’s called CIU, and there are solutions out there for you.”
CIU affects around 1.5 million people in the U.S. The red, itchy bumps or welts can appear anywhere on the body, and can last for several months or even years.
“I always thought hives was your mother-in-law’s nervous breakdown. I thought, ‘Me, hives? I’m not stressed; I’m not nervous.’ But most people do get hives at some point in their lives, and for those of us who have chronic hives it can be on-going,” Lawrence said.
For the first time, Lawrence is sharing her personal struggle with the disease and teamed up with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and its national campaign “CIU & You.”
“It just came out of nowhere, so I knew it was some sort of allergic reaction. In your mind you keep thinking, ‘What could be causing this?’” she said. “You want to think, ‘It’s my diet, you want to think it’s my new soap, it's the tannins in the red wine.’ You have to deal with the symptoms, and it's very frustrating looking for the answers.”
Because the cause of CIU is still unknown, Lawrence said the program can help ease that frustration for other patients with the disease.
“I’m happy that this new website [CIUandYou.com] can give them tools to find out how to live with CIU— and to know how to get to the right doctor,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence said the program provides tools to help patients share details of their symptoms with their doctors so that they can learn to manage the disease.
There are various medications used to treat symptoms of chronic idiopathic urticaria. Lawrence suggested speaking with an allergist or dermatologist to discuss these options.
“Track the journey of your body with the hives and take it to your doctor, and then hopefully the both of you will find a course of action— or your doctor can get you to the right doctor that is dealing with this,” Lawrence said.
For more information on chronic idiopathic urticaria, visit CIUandYou.com.