I've had eczema for a few years now. It's pretty rare, though not totally uncommon, to develop it as an adult. Typically children are more prone to it. Adults that have it tend to have had it as a kid, which wasn't the case for me. In any case, it's been an ongoing thing but as time has gone on, I've learned more and more ways to work through it.
Here are some of the recent activities in my ongoing battle with eczema.
Understand My Eczema Triggers
I don't have breakouts all of the time, but when I do, I've found that there are often things that lead to them for me. All of these things are quite common as far as triggers go:
- Cold, dry weather – It definitely spikes in the winter time when the air is cold and dry
- Stress – If I have a high level of stress, I seem to be more prone to outbreaks
- Too Little Sleep – If I average 7 or more hours per night, this seems to help me out a lot. If I fall below that, I have noticed that outbreaks are a lot more common.
- Cleaning Products – Washing dishes by hand or cleaning with harsher products seems to really ratchet things up. Even wearing gloves did not seem to help. But more on that in a second.
Understood and Re-Upped My Medication
One of the things that worked out really good over the past few years was a topical medicine called ProTopic. It was originally prescribed to me when it was a fairly new product, and there were quite a few concerns at the time. One was that it was thought to have led to higher incidents of skin cancer. Another was that it could weaken the skin.
Now that it's been around a lot longer, the larger sample size of available research has largely reduced these concerns. As far as the cancer goes, there are no real differences in the rate of skin cancer for people who are on the medicine or who aren't.
And the thinning of skin turns out not to be the case either. That tends to happen when you use steroid based products for a long period of time, but ProTopic is not a steroid, but instead is an immuno suppressant, meaning that it really works to squash the response of the immune system that triggers the breakouts. I also talked to the doctor about the concern that I could be building a tolerance to where my body would no longer respond, and she said that based on my usage, I have a long ways to go before she would be concerned about this. That's good!
The downside of the medicine is that it is expensive. Even a now-available generic version, cost me $305 for a tube. The good news on that is that I use it very sparingly, so this tube could end up lasting a long time. At the worst, I'd estimate that it would last six months, but based on how much I've used my previous amounts, it could last as long as two years.
We have a few areas where mildew seems to build up a lot. One is in our washing machine, which is a front loader that unfortunately was one of the early models, and I found that the area around the soap / bleach dispenser was never drying out and causing huge buildups of mildew. Maybe this had nothing to do with eczema, but either way, the idea that our clothes, towels, and bedding were being washed in it and then coming with our bodies gave me the idea to clean things out once and for all.
I spent a couple of hours erradicating all traces from the machine (using bleach, which ironically triggered an outbreak *lol*) and I now actually remove the little drawer and keep the inside dry to prevent new buildup from taking place. It defies logic to have to take the blasted thing out before bed, and then put it back in before I leave for work, but actually once you do it a few times, the absurdity kind of drops off.
One of the simple rules of thumb that my dermatologist told me is to make sure to use creams and not lotions. They work differently and creams are better than lotions for eczema patients. I've been working on trying to find one that I like best, and am right now working through an Aveeno formula specialized for eczema. The creams are definitely more money and they also tend to be a little more messy as they're more watery than lotions, but if it helps, I'm all for it.
Revamping My Cleaning Gloves (To Do)
When I told the dermatologist that cleaning solutions bothered me, she suggested gloves. When I mentioned that they often irritated me, she said that's common. Sweat and condensation will form inside the glove, and this process can actually irritate the skin. She has found that one thing that often works is to put a thin cotton glove on, then put the cleaning glove over that. The cotton glove will absorb most of the moisture that forms inside the glove, thus preventing it from getting to the skin. Now, the trick is just to find some thin enough cotton gloves where I can test this process. Any ideas?
Eczema is no fun. At one point over the past winter I decided I wanted to go cold turkey and see what would happen. Big fail. I ended up with spots in multiple places on my hands, fingers, and arms, and it itched so bad that I know I was spreading it around as I scratched it (even knowing that I shouldn't). Honestly, I hate being dependent on medicine but knowing that it works, I'm happy to continue on for now.
I'm hoping that one day there's a miracle cure. Until then, I'll do my best to deal with the rashes and scratches.
Readers, do you or does anyone in your family suffer from eczema? Any miracles out there that I should know about?