How I Manage My Eczema
I wasn’t sure whether to post this topic on my blog (itchy skin isn’t the most appealing of conversations); however, I thought that my story might be a useful resource for anyone else suffering from chronic eczema as it does have a positive outcome.
Disclaimer: This is just my story. I am by no means a medical or skin specialist so if you do have concerns about your skin, please go and visit your GP.
WHAT IS ECZEMA, ANYWAY?
Eczema – or dermatitis – is an inflammatory disease of the skin. It is an extremely common and often hereditary condition. It typically presents on the joints (but can appear anywhere on the body) and is accompanied by itch. The skin can appear dry, red, scaly, bumpy or patchy – and if aggravated (e.g. scratching), may have blisters, bleeding and scratch marks. Eczema is incurable but can be managed successfully. For more information, visit The Irish Skin Foundation.
MY ECZEMA STORY
My mother tells me that I had eczema when I was an infant but that it faded away without much ado in my toddler years. Certain soaps and detergents used to provoke it, apparently, but it was managed fairly easily with over-the-counter creams. I didn’t experience any further issues in my childhood / adolescent / early adult years – though my skin has continued to be on the dry and sensitive side (a common trait of Celtic complexions).
Things started to change during my first pregnancy in 2011 when I developed an itchy rash on my legs. I reported this to my GP who ran some precautionary blood tests (itchy skin during pregnancy can be an indicator of liver problems). Thankfully, the blood tests were clear, so I was advised to treat my skin for dryness. I used Oilatum shower gel followed by Oilatum body cream every day for the remainder of my pregnancy, and found them fantastic. The itchiness disappeared completely and I had no further issues until my second pregnancy in 2013…
Again, my GP ran blood tests, which came back clear, and so I was told to follow my Oilatum routine of old. However,this time it failed to work it’s charms and my skin became more irritated as the pregnancy progressed (namely my knees and elbows). I hoped that once I had the baby that my skin would re-calibrate itself back to normal but unfortunately it didn’t. I spent a fortune on lotions, potions and supplements, all of which were ‘guaranteed’ to yield an improvement, but nothing worked. Eventually my skin was so aggravated that it was keeping me awake at night. A newborn baby was enough to be keeping me awake at night, not to mind anything else, so I visited my GP, who prescribed a steroid cream. Unfortunately this didn’t work either so I sought a referral to a dermatologist.
There is a lengthy wait for dermatologists in my local area – even privately – but eventually I got seen by a consultant in May 2014. He confirmed that I have eczema and prescribed a stronger steroid cream. He also instructed me to bathe (not shower) daily using a bath emollient e.g. E45 or Oilatum, and to apply a generous amount of Aveeno Skin Relief Moisturing Lotion with Cooling Menthol to the eczema sites 4 times a day. To my great relief, things started to improve quite quickly; within a week the irritation had subsided, and within a month the rash was virtually gone.
Three months on and overall I’m happy with how my skin is behaving. The area around my knee where my eczema was most pronounced is still not 100% clear (though I think that it’s largely due to the damage caused by scratching, and not the eczema itself). I have experienced a few flare-ups since the initial treatment, but I followed the routine above and kept the situation at bay. Flare-ups are common – I’m told – and can be triggered by environmental and lifestyle factors e.g. stress, tiredness, dehydration, cold, heat, detergents, food intolerances etc. Causes vary from person to person and it may take you some time to figure out the contributing factor(s).
So that’s about it. I hope that my (long-winded) story gives you some consolation if you are struggling to get your eczema under control. Best of luck, and do share your experiences in the comments section below.
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