Monday, August 22, 2011

Eczema Conquered

I have been struggling with eczema for years. This is a condition in which doctors look at the itchy bumps on your skin that: come and go, keep you from sleeping, make you worry about what you eat and what you touch, itch to the point of bleeding and scaling, and keep you ugly in way too many places and they say: "oh, it's eczema, not a lot we can do about it."
For your further elucidation; dermatitis or eczema are the two terms used to describe a skin condition which has no known cause. In case you happen to be itchy too, I want to offer my experience and my solutions because I know how truly awful this can be. 

I've always had sensitive skin (I was the kid who couldn't wear certain socks because the stitching on the toes hurt). With childbirth and each subsequent pregnancy, things began to deteriorate. Dermatologists did biopsy after biopsy, I was beginning to wonder if I would have any skin left to itch. Always, the prognostic was the same: eczema.  The solution never varied either; topical cortisone cream.

When my situation got bad, as in my legs swelling up to the point of not being able to walk, I was put on Prednisone; a big bad oral steroid. Taking such a powerful drug with so many  possible side effects was not an idea that I much liked. I began to itch and swell, I took more Prednisone. But little by little, I explored more and more options, keeping what worked for me, going back to ones I'd left behind.

Here is what I've come up with; nothing works like wet therapy. This can take the very simple form of slathering oneself with cream or ointment and putting on wet pyjamas over the layer of cream.  Even 15 minutes twice a day makes a big difference. You can also use a sauna suit, or an uglier-than-life vinyl jogging suit that can be purchased for as little as $9.95 and worn OVER the damp pyjamas, or over dry clothes, since it will make you sweat anyway. Cotton gloves are good, but they are even better if you dampen them and cover them up with vinyl or latex gloves. If it is for a child, find something to distract them for a moment; a game, a story, ice cream, something to make them forget how miserable they are in wet pyjamas. Keeping a layer of moisture close to the skin hydrates it in ways that neither pure water nor lotion alone can do. 

Good nutrition and supplements are a great aid as well. I have found that B vitamins, omega-3s and 6s, digestive enzymes and vitamin D are all helpful. My mother tells me that l-lysine is wonderful for the skin, I will get some of that soon and add it to my arsenal.

Avoiding contact with water, fragrances and harsh chemicals is vital to the well-being of sensitive skin. In my case, I discovered I was allergic to lanolin, an ingredient in every skin cream and ointment in my household pre-discovery. A lot of good those creams were doing me; if you feel worse after putting on a product, wonder why.

Meditation (or prayer) and mindful living are the other component that help me as an adult keep calm enough to avoid the scratch catch-22. Believing in your body's healing power and taking time to consider the changes in your life that could foster health are key ingredients as well. In my case, it was: a) taking more time to meditate daily and b) giving up the crazy work schedule that was making raising a family and homeschooling a jungle instead of merely an organized zoo.

I have resorted to a liquid antihistamine at times. When the doctor told me I could take Benadryl to calm the reaction (to the unknown allergen), I told him I slept with the bottle next to the bed, straw inserted.

When things were completely out of control, my appointment with the dermatologist yielded good results. I literally had not a whole lot of skin left, I had chills and was not feeling great. He gave me a powerful steroid ointment that wiped out all of my symptoms within two days. I am sure it is really bad for me in more ways than one, but I will choose to live in the present, and the present is beautiful, and pain-free. The cream was in conjunction with wet therapy; first wet turtle neck and pyjama bottoms, then my brand new sauna suit. I gotta say; watch out, this is a very sexy item of clothing. I suppose, since its original purpose is for weight loss, it is very hard to find a smaller size. I managed to acquire a sm/med., which I chose mostly for its color (black, thank goodness, cobalt blue and screaming pink were just not going to do it.) What I did not anticipate was the stripes, gray/silver ones, that add an air of professional firefighter to my gear. I do not go out in the sauna suit either.

For as much information as you would ever hope to find on eczema, here is a link to a fantastic website, compiled by a woman who has suffered for years from the problem, found solutions and wants to share them with the world. I hope you keep the itchies at bay!

PS I must thank my husband, who has taken care of every chore involving water in the past year, and my children, who have patiently washed dishes and watered the garden all summer. And thank you to my friends, Natalie and Nathalie, who have offered many herbal remedies and supplements that have been most beneficial. Lastly, thank you to Marlis, at , who has listened to my complaints and offered sympathy and many of the solutions I mention above. She has been a good friend and extraordinarily helpful.

1 comment:

  1. I moved to my laptop today, so I could post replies on all my favorite blogs. Google chrome has some bugs that prevent me from leaving feedbacks. I just wanted to let you know that I read all posts. I am glad your eczema is under control. What wonderful news. It is such a miserable condition, which, while it doesn't kill us is life altering. Hope these treatments keep working for you.


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