Family history matters
Although I never noticed an outbreak on her beautiful, dark-walnut complexion, my mother complained about mild eczema one day. She rarely mentioned physical annoyances, because she had emerged from an era where one didn’t discuss such things.
I found out later why she broke this taboo. She must have known my turn was imminent. And my eruption was not mild; getting it under control has been a throbbing and persistent headache.
From dastardly symptoms to diagnosis
My doctor didn’t deliver the diagnosis until my 40s, but the symptoms had first manifested during childhood. I just didn’t recognize them as such.
All I knew was that I had unsightly, raised, reddish-brown rashes that spread from the inside of my elbows along the length of my forearms. The itching was so intense I used calamine lotion to subdue it.
A brief but false hope
Eventually, I discovered wearing rubber gloves while washing dishes prevented a recurrence. Eureka! I had identified the source as “an allergy to dish detergent.”
Or so I thought. Then the monster returned to spread its ugly tentacles over my complacency.
After relocating to Atlanta, I experienced firsthand how the city had earned its moniker of “Hotlanta.” Sultry conditions endured for days or even weeks at a time with scarcely a breeze for a reprieve. My eczema flourished in such a climate.
I can honestly say I tried the dictionary of over-the-counter remedies. Creams, compresses, elixirs, and oils of just about every brand you can imagine accumulated all over my bathroom sink. They were to no avail.
Wools and similar rough fabrics aggravated the rashes, so I avoided them. I still woke up scratching in the middle of the night.
Then the dollar-a-second dermatologists (also called “dermies”) marched into my life.
Don’t get me wrong. Dermies serve a great purpose and help people with far greater maladies than mine. But they are expensive and, in my case, they presented another issue. They recommended steroidal compounds.
Although medical records document their effectiveness, cortisone creams frighten me as a menace to good health. Products with high steroidal concentrations, or even milder ones applied frequently, can thin skin and attack the liver-not an appealing set of outcomes.
Stress triggers identified
It was time to apply a more holistic approach to solving the problem. The first observation I made was the high level of stress in my life:
- I had weathered a divorce, and my dating relationships had been a series of shipwrecks.
- I was working extended hours, and yet I teetered on the knife’s edge of unemployment.
- I knew I had to return to school for a significant amount of technical training. Did I have the intellectual firepower to handle it?
- I wasn’t enduring my hardships in a vacuum; friends and other family members regularly shared their trials with me.
But I knew plenty of people under far greater pressure who developed no symptoms. It was time to research the medical cause of my eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis.
Doctors know everything–almost
Imagine my disappointment when I learned doctors were unsure of the answer.
Some medical researchers think people susceptible to eczema exhibit a pattern of falling prey to fungal and bacterial skin infections. Bingo! That one resonated with me. I had contracted a foot fungus during my teens.
Things that aggravate me AND my eczema
The literature on eczema concurs with these items as possible causes:
- allergies (to nature, fabrics, or products, for example)
- immune system response to irritants
Staying the course of treatment
I tried and eventually declined frequently prescribed cortisone creams like triamcinolone, but I still follow the doctor’s advice to avoid known irritants and keep my skin moisturized.
I routinely wash and dry my skin after exercising to prevent sweat from exacerbating the itch, and I meditate to reduce stress. The combination of these measures can make a difference.
My soothing favorites
For me, the most effective products have been:
- finely milled colloidal oatmeal used in warm-water baths for temporary relief
- oatmeal lotion; oatmeal-based products like those Aveeno makes to soothe and calm the itch
- shea butter, which contains Vitamin A and E and provides calming moisture for the skin
- Champori, an excellent herbal ointment available at this link: http://www.champori.com
In summary, chronic eczema can be bothersome and frustrating, but diligent care can clear or control the condition. Never forget to check your stress levels and emotions as possible triggers.
As a rule, the experts should examine your rashes because many disorders can manifest them. If you think you might have eczema, consult a doctor familiar with natural remedies and handle your symptoms with discipline. Your efforts will prove worthwhile whenever you’re itching to get relief.
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