I’ve been struggling with a bad eczema flare recently – months of vesicles and itchy patches encircling most of my neck. At one point, the rash was so solid it looked like a sunburn. I also developed eczema in my ears on and off over the past year and a patch in my scalp in December.
Most of the time, I tough it out with my various moisturizers, calamine lotion, witch hazel, Vitamin E oil, and showers, while examining my diet for any of the foods I’m sensitive to. That wasn’t working this time, so after trying some over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, I dragged myself to a dermatologist, dreading the inevitable steroid prescription.
The dermatologist did a punch biopsy in order to confirm whether I was dealing with eczema. She was concerned I might have an autoimmune disease, like lupus. Fortunately (in comparison to the alternative), the diagnosis came back as “chronic spongiotic dermatitis,” which is a form of eczema.
While I was waiting for the diagnosis, the doctor prescribed two steroids, triamcinolone cream for the skin around my neck and fluocinonide solution for my ears and scalp. Within just a couple of days of use, I was having side effects that suggested I was hyperglycemic (too much sugar in the blood). I felt super tired and had weak muscles, was very thirsty and kept running to the bathroom to pee, was jittery and had tingling in my hands and feet, and my hot flashes were intense. I was so worried that I went to Urgent Care. The doctor ran a bunch of tests, including my blood sugar, which came back high but still within what’s considered normal an hour after eating (174 out 180).
Both the Urgent Care doctor and my dermatologist said that no one had ever had such symptoms using topical steroids. To which I wanted to reply, “Then why are these listed as symptoms on the information that came with the prescriptions?”
While they may be rare side effects, someone had to have suffered them for them to be included on the drug facts. I am the someone who, almost guaranteed, will have the rare side effects from prescriptions, so I try to avoid them when possible. I had forewarned my dermatologist of this fact.
To her credit, my dermatologist did not insist I continue with the steroids and prescribed another drug, tacrolimus, which sounds like the name for a dinosaur. I used it a couple of times and ended up with a deep itch a few hours after use. This was an itch not like my normal eczema itch, so I stopped using it.
These appointments took place over the course of a couple of weeks, during which I had decided to cut refined sugar out of my diet and review my laundry detergent, shampoo, conditioner, and various eczema products. I discovered my shampoo, conditioner, and Vitamin E oil all had ingredients that I had tested allergic to a number of years ago (almond and quinoa, among other things). I found new products without these allergens and switched my laundry detergent to one with no fragrance that was meant for sensitive skin.
I had also stumbled upon a new moisturizer for eczema by Cetaphil. It is Restoraderm® Flare-Up Relief Cream. It is the second in a three-part eczema system by Cetaphil. After having problems with the steroids, I switched over to this and it started clearing my skin. Then I got the tacrolimus and my skin started flaring again. (Urgh!) It didn’t help that I had to wear a bandage for over a week on the site of my punch biopsy. The bandage contributed to the flare.
I visited the National Eczema Association’s website [https://nationaleczema.org] in order to review its product directory. There were a number of new products on the list since the last time I looked years ago, and I decided to give a few more of them a try.
I had high hopes for a product called Gladskin Eczemact, which is meant to help repair the skin’s microbiome, a common problem for those with eczema. The product went on very smoothly, but it ended up causing the fluid under the surface of my eczema to weep out and the flare got worse. This was obviously not the product for me and I suspect it’s because of my specific type of eczema, that spongiotic part. Because there is clear fluid in the vesicles and under the surface of my eczema, I have to find products that simultaneous moisturize the surface while drying out what’s underneath. I wrote to the company to let them know so they can work to develop new products for different types of eczema.
I ordered a couple of products from Mommy’s Bliss: Baby Eczema Ease Daily Moisturizer and Spot Treatment Skin Protectant. I was interested in trying these products because they contain castor oil, which I had used to spot treat some of the vesicles with some success. Castor oil is pretty messy, though, and my skin doesn’t like it when I use too much. I found the Mommy’s Bliss Spot Treatment to be a little too thick for my skin, but the Daily Moisturizer spreads smoothly and seems to help my scalp. I can see using this when my skin has only a minor flare or as a preventative.
Another product I found on the National Eczema Association’s product directory was BLDG Active Skin Repair. I purchased the hydrogel rather than the spray. According to the product’s website [https://www.bldgactive.com], this is a medical-grade molecule that mimics a molecule the body’s white blood cells manufacture in response to injuries. Once I started using this, I noticed an immediate improvement in my skin. It seems to dry out the fluid under the eczema. When I alternate this with the Cetaphil Restoraderm®, the combination provides both the drying and moisturizing my skin needs to clear the eczema. (Whew!)
I’ve learned more about my eczema with this particular flare. I’m glad to know the specific type of eczema I have. Though the side effects from the steroids were scary, they indicated that I have something going on with my blood sugar and I need to be careful not to eat too many refined sugars. Now that I’ve cut those out of my diet, my hot flashes have subsided. (A surprising and welcome development!) In some of my online research on eczema, I’ve discovered that eczema can be a sign of prediabetes. I’ve also found that new, non-prescription products are continually being developed to help treat eczema. Thank goodness!
With 31 million people in America suffering from eczema, including my two grandchildren, we need all the help we can get to manage this uncomfortable and distressing disease.
I posted about my original diagnosis of eczema on my old blog, The Woo Woo Teacup Journal, on October 10, 2011. [https://woowooteacup.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/diagnosis-atopic-dermatitis/]
I’m glad I did. I keep thinking I’ve had it longer than 12 years!