Growing up with Eczema 60-70+ years ago


Although most of my Eczema challenges have been addressed to the point where I can cope with them now, when I saw the Eczema Support page on Facebook, I joined immediately.  When I was a child – in the 40’s and 50’s – I was told I would “outgrow this rash”, but I never did.  My cousin who was 6 years older than me, did outgrow it.  So there I was…waiting to outgrow the rash but that never happened. I scratched myself raw sometimes.

Born in 1943 I could not tolerate milk and after getting completely covered in red spots, the doctor finally suggested my parents try goat milk which was tolerable for me, so I could eat and not get sick.  No one understood why I got this rash.  All kinds of treatments were suggested:  no oranges without a slice of bread, presumably to soak up the acid; no chocolate of any kind; sunlamp sessions to dry up the little blisters; salt water, same theory, and many more.  My family kept telling me to “STOP SCRATCHING!!!”.  I kept on scratching because I couldn’t help myself not to.

As a child I was very self conscience, and wore long sleeves even in the warm months.  For some reason long sleeves seemed to help stop the itch unless I started to sweat, then it was worse than ever.  People looked at me inquisitively and asked what was wrong with my arm or hand or feet when the rash was really noticeable.  I just glossed over the problem and told them it was nothing.  I tried so hard not to scratch when I was around other people.

In my twenties after marriage and having a child, I landed in the hospital because my skin would not heal from all the scratching and now it was getting infected.  I was put in a room by myself with no visitors.  After a couple of weeks of nothing but rest and some ointments and steroid creams, I got better and was allowed to go home.  But the rash and itching continued.

And so the rash dragged on throughout my life.  No one gave it a name.  No doctor could heal it.  I was told it was atopic dermatitis and there was no cure.  I had to live with it.  One day I saw an article about atopic dermatitis and eczema and that doctors were doing research, hoping to provide relief to many who suffered with this problem.  That got my attention.  I read how the cells in the skin performed when someone has eczema and that doctors were looking at this in a new way.  This gave me some hope a cure will be found someday.

For some reason my skin didn’t bother me as much as I got older.  Well into my 40’s I tended to ignore it and just address what a doctor called flare ups.  I had some skin cream that worked and that was the extent of my attention to it.  Then, in my late 60’s my feet became so encrusted with extra skin and cracks, I couldn’t walk.  The cream wasn’t working.  I tried oatmeal foot baths.  I tried natural skin rash products and everything I could find online.  Nothing worked and it was getting worse.  I had to go to the doctor to see if I could get some relief.  My general practitioner recommended a local dermatologist.

On my first visit, the dermatologist doctor diagnosed my skin condition as a fungus.  Yikes, how did I get a fungus?  I really did not think that was what I had and said so, but he was adamant and gave me a prescription for some fungus healing stuff.  Holy cow, my skin boiled over!  Red, weeping, sores, cracking and bleeding.  Ugh!  I went back and showed him what was going on and he still insisted it was a fungus.  We had words.  So he did a biopsy of the skin and then pronounced it was eczema and told me heat therapy is what he recommended.  I got scared at this and decided to get another opinion as heat and sweat usually made my skin worse.

The second doctor said it was eczema flaring up and prescribed some ointments and creams that worked well and are keeping me rash and itch free now 5 years later.  To sum up…living with atopic dermatitis or Eczema is difficult.  As far as I know there is no cure.  One has to deal with it the best way he or she can.  Doctors can prescribe creams, ointments, therapies, but it is the person who has this condition, who best decides what works best.  Eczema is a journey of understanding your body over a lifetime versus only doctors visits and prescriptions.