My eczema story

A journalist* unveils the overwhelming reality of
living with this skin condition

A journalist* unveils the overwhelming reality of living with this skin condition

My eczema story

A journalist* unveils the overwhelming reality of living with this skin condition


About five years ago, I started to get red rash-like blotches on my skin on the area inside my elbow. I thought nothing of it and said to myself I would put moisturiser on it. I was 22 and starting out in the mad world of journalism. Slowly, over a couple of weeks, the red rash started appearing elsewhere in patches, on my back, on my legs and on my neck. It presented in a different way on my hands, they were really dried out and extremely itchy.
I went to the doctor, who said it looked like contact dermatitis (eczema), something I hadn’t thought about but remembered having as a child on my knees and wrists. The doctor prescribed steroid cream, which I applied. Over the next few weeks, it steadily got worse. I would wake up in the middle of the night scratching my hands so much that sometimes they would bleed.

DAILY STRESS

I was told to put on emulsifying ointment and cotton gloves at night. I was also prescribed sleeping tablets. At the same time, it got worse on my body and had spread to my face. It appeared bright-red on my face and this made me really self-conscious. Sometimes, I also woke up with puffy eyes. 

I couldn’t wear make-up – it would dry out my skin where the eczema was. I felt really low. My job as a journalist meant I was out and about at events and finding stories. I didn’t feel confident talking to people.

I had good and bad weeks; sometimes the steroid cream would work and the redness and itchiness would ease, but it would come back again. I became very careful about moisturising my skin, every day and every night.

As it was contact dermatitis, my doctor told me to try and change things around the house. I got rid of bleach as a start and tried cutting out gluten and dairy (after reading other people’s stories online). Cutting out gluten and dairy wasn’t going to work in the long-run,  as I eat a lot of gluten and dairy. I didn’t know if it was work stress or not, I was more stressed about what people in work thought about my condition.

PATCH-TEST RESULTS

Nothing I tried seemed to make it better, so I was sent to a dermatologist in Dublin to get a patch test done. Finally, I thought, I’ll find out what was causing the rash.

A patch test was done – the patch was placed on my back – to identify what I could be allergic to from a range of 15-20 possibilities. I was actually excited thinking that I would finally have an answer and I would be able to change or get rid of whatever was causing it.

Unfortunately, there was no reaction to any of the products on the test. My heart sank. I asked what I could try next or how I could get rid of it. The consultant replied that I wouldn’t and that I would have it for life. I bawled my eyes out there and then. I felt crushed, that I would be stuck with this forever across my face and body. I was so disappointed, I felt like all hope was gone.

I was given more steroid cream and had six-month check-ups with my dermatologist over the next two years. I kept applying it as prescribed, took antihistamines and tried my hardest to keep a positive mindset.

CLEAR SKIN, CLEAR MINDSET

Then, about two years ago, the eczema began to clear up. My dermatologist was delighted that the steroid cream was working, but I wasn’t so sure it was solely down to that.

In the last three years, I’ve moved job and house, so maybe that is something to do with it. Maybe it’s giving myself a break and saying it will clear up eventually and not feeling so down. Maybe it was the steroid cream coupled with a less stressed mindset. I will never know really and I cannot pinpoint the initial trigger.

All I know is, that, at this moment in time, whenever I have clear skin, I’m happy in myself. For anyone reading who thinks they might never see the light at the end of the eczema tunnel, do not give up hope. You will get there.

*Our contributor is currently trialling the RELIFE Relizema range to help manage their eczema-prone skin.