Hi Everyone :)
So at the insistence of my partner and her mum, I was forced to go to the skin hospital in Weifang (China) for a full examination of my skin condition. I have psoriasis, which was previously diagnosed by my rather expensive dermatologist in Australia about 8 years ago. It is basically an autoimmune disease which causes my immune system to react negatively with my skin resulting in small red patches of flaky skin. Think dandruff on your head, but all over my body.
One of the many signs in the hospital... I have no idea what it saids :)
Anyway, I was basically ordered to go get checked out again. I figure I document the trip, as I have no prior experience with going to a medical professional in China, and if I am honest I was a little apprehensive about the trip.
Just a disclaimer, any information should not be construed as medical advice, go seek professional advice. Additionally, remember that most "good" medical professionals are trying to help you, so try and listen to what they have to say before you go quoting google…
I first experience the symptoms of psoriasis about 15 years. It manifested as intermittent bouts of really bad dandruff, and as I grew older it appeared on my legs, arms, and body as small red patches. It got really bad about 8 years ago. My skin was starting to crack and bleed mildly, and I started searching online to give me an idea of what the hell was wrong with me. I ended up self-diagnosing myself with psoriasis.
Psoriasis on my leg. It's really minor at the moment... Thanksfully
I tried to get my GP to sign a script for the cream I needed, but (rightly so) he rejected it without getting a dermatologist to have a proper look. He referred me to a dermatologist, and being the poor student I was, I tried to acquire the ingredients I needed to make up my own cream. Problem is, my pharmacist (rightly so), would not sell me the ingredients I needed to make up the cream without a script, as the distribution of the medical grade stuff is controlled. If you are curious I needed salicylic acid, and coal tar. I now know that in high enough concentrations coal tar can cause cancer, so as they say in the mining industry, safety rules are often written in blood.
Fast forward a few months, and I finally got checked out. It was psoriasis, and they gave me script for a mixture of coal tar and salicylic acid. I have to say that initially, the cream worked surprisingly well, but the smell is a little overwhelming. The main issue I have with using it, is that I basically have to hide from the sun when I have it on, as the coal tar makes the skin super sensitive to sunlight, and you start to burn really quickly. Saying this is hard to do while living in Australia is an understatement.
The mixture the pharmacist gave me runs at around $30 for a 200ml bottle. I will tell you right now, that it does not last long when you have to apply it basically everywhere. Since then, I have used the mixture sparingly, and mainly during really bad flare ups.
Just from personal experience, I know that my psoriasis conditions gets worst in the winter, and during times of extreme stress. I also suspect that weight loss has a positive effect on the condition, as I recall during my brief time at a healthy-ish weight range where my skin was noticeable better. Just another good reason for me to try and get my weight under control. However, this is all anecdotal, so take it with a grain of salt.
Weifang Skin Hospital Visit
Below is a rough chronological sequence of events.
10:00am - We Arrive
My partner and her mum escort me to the hospital. They act as my translators, and also to make sure I don't bail on the visit. We meet the receptionist, and fill out the necessary paperwork. In return I get a little booklet which will hold the results of all my tests.
We are given a receipt and told to go wait by the doctor's office.
Our Hospital Receptionist
10:05am - Stripping down
We didn't really have to wait long. We enter the office after a few minutes wait, I am greeted by two doctors, whom I guess are dermatologist, or "Expert Skin Consultants" based on the english title on their office.
I am asked to strip down to my underwear, which I am fine with, but it was a little awkward… My partner and her mum were still in the office, which I am kind of ok with, but what really got me was that other patient who were waiting were also in there as well.
After a bit of light prodding and scrapping, they ordered a vivascope examination.
My enthusiastic Chinese dermatologist
10:15am - Vivascope
I head down the hallway to another room where a medical technician ask me to take some of my clothes off so that he can take his pictures :P. I lie down on a wooden table, and he proceeds to take these microscopic pictures of my skin with the Vivascope machine.
He printed out some information for the original doctor, and sent me upstairs to get my bloodwork done.
Vivascope Machine - Source: http://www.vivascope.de
10:25am - Bloodwork
I don't think anyone really likes needles, so when I was told I had to get some bloodwork done I started freaking out a bit. At this point I wasn't actually aware that I needed the bloodwork. Remember everyone is speaking in mandarin, and I can barely understand a word. I am just doing what I am told.
I suck it up, sit down on the stool, and the man across the booth starts prepping me for blood collection. I've done bloodwork before, and its generally been in a private room. In this hospital you are literally sitting on a stool in a public area, and sticking your arm across a cinema-like ticket booth, waiting for them to take your blood sample. My partner laughs at me, and tells me everything is ok, these guys literally take thousands of blood samples a week.
After they take my precious blood, we are asked to wait outside in the hall for the blood results.
Me... putting on a nervous smile after they took my blood.. Photo courtesy of my laughing and mocking girlfriend
I get my bloodwork results back, nothing out of the ordinary based on my girlfriend analysis of the results. As a bonus I also found out I was HIV free. Yay! There was never any doubt regarding this, but it is nice that they also ran the check while they had my blood.
We went back downstairs to see original doctor, he diagnoses me with psoriasis (no surprise here), but tells me my condition is not particularly severe. I ask my partner to ask if my weight has an impact on the condition, and he tells us that it doesn't have a direct impact, but there may be hormonal changes that occur because of my weight change improves my condition.
He goes on to prescribe me with a tonne of creams and lotions for my skin.
11:00 to 11:10am.
We go to the hospital pharmacy to pick up our drugs. I happily walk out of the hospital still alive :). All up the cost of the visit is approximately $200 AUD, and this includes all the tests and drugs that we brought. My partner tells me the hospital's mark-up on the drugs were quite high, and if we were to buy the items elsewhere, it would have been a bit cheaper.
So, how would I rate my experience? No one likes going to a hospital, but they were not bad, and answered (after being translated) all the questions I did have. The price wasn't too bad either, but what really impressed me was the speed at which everyone was done.
In a little over an hour, I managed to get checked out by a dermatologist, take some fancy pictures, and also get a bloodwork report back. In Australia, I would be lucky if I could see a GP in that time! I am going to give the cream a hard crack, and if it is ridiculous good, I will report back :).
Until next time