Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Charities, Jeans & Showers: The Good, Bad and the Ugly

Here I describe a few of my wintertime eczema experiences. I hope it helps you in some way :-)

I suffer with eczema. I suffer with it even more when the weather changes from hot to cold or vice versa. Firstly my face starts to get really dry and cracked and especially around my mouth. Most annoying. Next is my arms which get blotchy and finally the backs of my legs get similarly red and cracked. These are things which I am sure are familiar to many of my fellow eczema friends out there... I've tried many lotions and potions to combat this but with no avail. For the past two winters however I have found the answer to eczema on the face at least! The answer being - The Mark Gorry Foundation. This is a Testicular Cancer charity I work for and since the passing of a close friend 2 years I have been involved in "Grow A Beard For Gorry" which as you can see from the picture above involves well; growing a beard! For the months I have it my skin is amazing and it also helps keep me warm!! Now beards aren't for everyone, but what better excuse to give it a bash than growing one and raising some cash at the same time (women can possibly try a sponsored leg hair grow?!). Good excuse too if like me you have a partner who doesn't like you with facial hair normally :-)

They was the good.

The Bad: Jeans are EVIL. This is just a recent discovery and there is a logic behind my outlandish claims...

For years I have suffered with really bad chapped hands with really dry skin and many trips to the doctor later I was still left with no answer and many creams to try. I like to keep my use of Steroid cream to a minimum if I can help it so I tried to think of the source of my dry skin as it was always worse on my fight hand. Surely not a coincidence! Turns it out wasn't. The story goes that my skin was particularly bad one morning and as I went to answer my phone (located in my right jeans pocket) I ended up scraping the top layer of skin from my knuckles... And then i realised! Clearly me dipping in and out of my pocket some 5-10 times an hour was rubbing my skin just like I was scratching! So obvious but I had never thought of it before!

My message to you? There's always reason why your eczema is bad... Either your scratching and so it's obvious or like me it's something so simple you don't even notice!

And Finally: The Ugly!

Showers!

These things often do more harm than good especially in the winter months when the cold and wind is battering your skin leading it to be dry. A long warm shower is tempting to wash away the winter blues but for me it leads to more issues. A shower (more so the hotter you have your shower) drys out your skin. It does this because it removes the top layer of moisture (so the dermatologist tells me) from your skin. Clearly this isn't what you need with the additional consequences of the winter months. This year i will be sticking to having baths and I may dig out my trusted scarf and gloves for further protection.

Andrew

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Eczema and Confidence

Eczema affects confidence. Fact.

In fact I'll go as far to say the amount of eczema I have is directly proportional to the lack of confidence I have.

It dictates how well I sleep, how well I feel, what mood I'm in and what I wear. On the back of this I have been known to comfort eat when feeling down. In fact I comfort ate my way to 20 stone over a 14 year period.

If my eczema gets me down then I don't do much. Or anything. Including live my life. It is this cycle that needs to be broken as I know it doesn't have to be this way.

The question is how do I start? I'll be the first to admit I use my moisturising cream daily but only break out the steroid creams etc when it gets really bad. And when I do I stop using them as soon as it clears up. What I should be doing is using them for a few days after it's gone too as its my understanding now (GP Advice) that the eczema has gone from the surface but still lurks below so still needs the treatment! I was brought up thinking that too much was bad, it seems not enough is bad too!

The other big one is scratching! As you may have seen in an earlier blog I have many inventive ways to scratch. All of which mean my eczemas going nowhere fast :)

The first step though is acknowledging the problem and asking for help. For example my friends now tell me off if they see me even go to scratch... And this has started to work! You'd be surprised how often you attempt to scratch even without realising. It's not even itchy it's just a habit. And they can be broken with will power and friends :)

I'm feeling positive about this whole non scratching thing so I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

You're not really allergic to that...

I do like to rant every now and then...

This time, it's about my food intolerance to wheat/gluten. I live a wheat free life style because after blood tests the docs told me I shouldn't eat wheat, to be honest I don't actually know if eating wheat affects my eczema that much but since I've stopped eating it I don't get any stomach cramps when eating, I don't get bloated anymore and I don't have this sudden urge to use the W.C.!

Avoiding this has led to my life being slightly more comfortable in the stomach/bowel region. So when people tell me that avoiding wheat is a pointless exercise because it hasn't made my skin any better I tend to get frustrated that they can't see that eating it causes me to be uncomfortable. Also, with my food allergies I tend to find myself in lots of situations were I have to refuse things because of my intolerance to wheat. This again leads to certain people saying such things as...

"I understand you can't eat certain things, but you tell everybody at any opportunity that you are special and can't eat things and you really are just saying it for the attention now."

Priceless!

You understand? If you did then you wouldn't be giving me grief for handling things the way I do! So no, you don't understand. Nor do you want to, you seem quite happy being ignorant from atop your pedestal.

Tell people at every opportunity? I'd rather not have to tell people at all thanks. I'd also rather not have any skin allergies at all. And to be fair it's sometimes awkward when people insist you take something because they think you are just being polite in refusing. A quick explanation and all is well.

The attention? Really? Hey look at me! I'm special because I have eczema and I'm allergic to stuff which causes me to be in pain at times and can sometimes lead you to feeling that all there is in the world is just you and your skin and consequently zaps all your confidence and before you know it you're a mess. Yeah, real special.

And if leading a life of obscurity is how you don't get eczema then show me where to sign up for that!!

Rant over :)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I've been itching to share this!! (Expect many, many, more bad eczema related puns)

Recently I came to have an epiphany of sorts… in a nutshell my eczema was so bad I was in hospital for 3 days for treatment and recovery. That was my second visit in 4 months and a rather big wake up call as it was the worst flare up I’ve had since childhood!

That said. I started looking into various sources (actually started on Twitter!) for info on eczema and came across a book (which I’ll blog on separately at a later date) called “The Eczema Solution” and in it the author, who also has eczema, mentioned scratching… And in particular the methods and ITEMS we use for said scratching.

Items? Like the stuff I secretly use to scratch with? No… You don’t talk about stuff like that!!

Now.. This! For me, has always been a bit of a no go area. Something you don’t bring up. Something I was, genuinely ashamed of doing never mind talking about! I don’t know why I was ashamed but I’m betting it has something to do with not talking to other eczema sufferers about the condition. This being the whole point of my starting this blog, so i can share with you my thoughts /feelings /secrets and fears. But most importantly raising awareness!

Now to the heart of the blog. Itching, is well, itchy! And as such demands to be scratched! Over the years I have developed many ways of relieving the itch… All of which do more harm than good, and all of which i can remember I’ve listed below!

My Methods of “Relieving” Eczema…

- Fingernails

- Toenails

- Scratching against clothing (rivets/studs on jeans was a favourite)

- Back Scratcher

- My Dad scratching my back with his nails

- Scratch using a blunt knife

- Pen Knife

- Scratch using a fork (that’s one of my more recent ones and I’m 24)

- Rubbing my eczema against a carpet floor (favourite as a child – ESP on the wire type carpets)

- Chinese burn of sorts to myself (rub skin until it’s raw)

- Run a red hot bath to relieve itchiness

- Stand under a hot shower and turn the temperature up to silly levels

- Sneakily burn my eczema against the side of a hot cup of tea

- Corner of a door frame or wall

- Scratched scalp with the comb

- Sat against a radiator wiggling from side to side in attempt to burn skin

- Scrape skin with a rough towel whilst getting dried

- holding skin against anything cold or freezing in an attempt to cool down (metal from chairs in work or bags of frozen food)

Twittered the question – who used what to scratch… No answer! Now I’m either not very popular (Cant see it being that of course!) or the people who read that question had the same taboo like reaction as I once had!

Today’s thought is that if you too have done any of the above or have your own preferred itch relief favorites (please feel free to email and or comment what they are) then you may want to seek extra help because all of those things that I have done or do involve scratching the surface of your skin off or scolding it!! Scolding it!!! Boiling hot temperatures + my skin = i was/ arguably still am, completely mad!!

Both are NOT GOOD, and through experience both just end up drying your skin out and you regret doing it later (even though the relief short term is oh so goooood!). So yes. Less burny scratchy stuff. And more creamy relief type stuff (Emollient!)

I’ve attached a picture as proof that scratching doesn’t help!

That is all

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Climb Aboard The Itchy Scratchy Express

What do I know about eczema? Well, not an awful lot to be fair...

I know how to live with it. I know some of the things that trigger my eczema and i am 100% confident that I could still dream up ways to scratch even if you took away my hands, arms and toes!

What I don't know is enough about the background to eczema - basically my awareness level currently stands at: "Oops, was that a bus that just hit me?" (thats "not" very aware for those who are struggling).

My awareness level is so low because I've lived with eczema since birth. Of course i didn't actually realise i knew so little until a dermatologist asked me what i knew - my best answer was a sarcastic one about it itching! So for the last 24 years I've learned to live WITH eczema, I've learned that flare ups do happen and that they will go away eventually. I've also learned that other people don't understand eczema and that goes right from kids (in school I got the whole don't come near me it's catching rubbish right to being called an Eczema Man, as in X-Men the cartoon - genius!) right through to adults which lead to my first rant that you may have read!

I now know through the help of others (mainly Twitter - thanks Amanda) and by researching various places on-line that the trick to eczema is not to learn to live with it, but to learn to live WITHOUT eczema, something I never thought possible!

My idea is to tell you what I THINK I know and then you can either tell me I'm right/wrong or I'll be carrying on looking into things and I'll report back to you and tell you more - either way, we all win! The main thing though is to raise awareness and hopefully get people talking to each other (or me - my email address is at the bottom if you click my name) as talking has certainly helped me :)

Think of this as riding along on the Itchy Scratchy Express to Enlightenment from somebody who may well be very much like you - Clueless (for now!)

Andrew

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rant “Eczema isnt a real illness”

You try living with it for ONE day… One day I challenge you!

It’s not other peoples fault that they have this attitude because they don’t know any better but boy does it annoy me that A LOT of people don’t count Eczema as a serious illness.

Where do I start with this rant?

I suppose if we start with the fact that the skin is the largest organ in the body. If I then told you that my eczema can and does cover anywhere from 10% to 80-90% of my body during a flare up you may then realise how uncomfortable it can get.

How can I help people understand? I could tell them about the pain and the suffering and the way it can rule your life and decision making…? Noooo… That would (of course!) be attention seeking and I’d never be able to get my point across.

The best way I explained this to a colleague recently is by comparing it to when they have a spot… How annoyed are they when they get a blemish on their face I asked?! Even the mere mention of such horrors got them talking quickly and I sat smiling as the tales of how it was an end of the world type scenario for them and how they suffer a crisis in confidence! Hundreds of pounds gets invested in potions and lotions bought to help it go away or to hide these types of things every year, they may even skip a night out they tell me…!

I wait politely for the quick outburst of panic to be over. A moments realisation of why this subject was raised and the look of guilt is hard to hide when they suddenly realise that this one spot is but a mere fraction of what I have to put up with on a daily basis!

Now I DONT want you to feel guilty, and I certainly DONT want any sympathy – you have to play the hand your dealt. But what I DO want is my condition taken seriously and not to be made to feel small when I’m suffering just because eczema “isn’t a real illness”.

Rant Over :)

UPDATE:
Since I wrote this I have have been reffered to Operational Health Services by my employers who have confirmed that I should be treated under the Disability Discrimination Act with regards to absence due to eczema!