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Eczema Causes and Triggers: A Snapshot of Quiet Pain

As I sit here, I am having a mental battle with myself to not itch. I sit and acknowledge the pain that can only be described as a tickle, burning, or a subcutaneous tingle. It is like letting cleaner sit on your skin and wanting to wipe it off, except I have no way to remove that irritant. Relief only comes after a useless obsessive-like scratching. Scratching results red bumps, broken skin. I have eczema and this is the start of a series of posts regarding that. It is anything but pretty, but it has recently consumed my life. I feel pretty alone when I am writhing and feeling sorry for myself at 1 AM and would simply give anything to just be able to go to sleep. This is my current normal. If you are affected by allergies or eczema, and are interested in my journey, please read on! Also, please note that there are graphic photos further down this post.

It worsens at night as the body releases heat to cool your core temperature, causing my skin to dry. I lie in bed exhausted and ready to pass out but the numbing, incessant itch continues to beckon my attention. Then the cycle begins: itch, scratch. No relief. Frustration. Whoa is me. Why does something so small as an itch cause me this much pain. Why do I let it cause me this much pain. More frustration, due to my lack of control over it. My lack of control over my response of frustration. The lack of easement. More frustration because it is such a trivial problem. I don’t have a chronic illness. I am healthy, fit, and usually energetic (more on that later), so I feel guilty for letting it affect me so.

I have itched to the point that my skin is burning. The eczema is notable and I have to force myself back out of bed. I get up and have 2 options: steroid cream ointment, triaminocolone acetonide, or Eucrisa. The steroid may itch again if I don’t fall asleep in 15-20 minutes. It also breaks down my skin, giving my arm creases a wrinkly appearance and poor healing and scarring on the occasion that the patches fade.

The second option is Eucrisa, a non-steroidal ointment that scientist have yet to determine how it helps the itch, but it does stop it. The only catch is that, with the amount I have already scratched, will inevitably burn for about 10 minutes. I decide on Eucrisa. I put it on. I cry because it burns like a mother. I use a hair dryer to cool the burn. I cry and grit my teeth because it hurts. I cry because I am a baby and regret itching. I cry more because I know I will be exhausted from having stayed up an extra hour and a half.

Rub your hand down your arm. Do not take that smoothness for granted. My skin feels bumpy, rough, scabby, and itchy. Sometimes itchy, sometimes burning, most often both.

I use special soap, special detergent, wear white undergarments, and use special sunscreen, lotion. New makeup or skincare nearly always breaks me out, so I stick with what doesn’t cause reactions. I have dyshidrotic eczema between my fingers so I rarely wear my wedding rings these days. We use special pillowcases, mattress encasements, and the most expensive HVAC vents money can buy. We have a cleaning lady so dust mites can be kept to a minimum. I am on a fully gluten, soy, egg, and tree-nut free diet. All that fun GLUTEN-FREE stuff you see at the grocery store? It is actually replaced with SOY. If it doesn’t have soy, the protein comes from almond or coconut flour.

We are looking for a new home because I need a tub (we only have 2 showers) as a part of my treatment. There are potential allergens everywhere and its not like I can simply remove ragweed or pollen from my life without living in a bubble. I am THAT person at restaurants. I spend 3 hours in the grocery store every time I go.

I feel like I look diseased, and I suppose I am as eczema is considered a non-contagious, likely genetic autoimmune disease. I have a kit-kat at work from our candy jar because I am hungry thinking, “oh just one won’t hurt” and I regret the decision 6-8 hours later.

I have constant anxiety that I will get it on my face and I haven’t always been a very secure or confident person. This is pinching my security.

I formerly practiced yoga in a sports bra and yoga leggings and I now, however much I try to own my body, am insecure of whether people notice, what they think, and whether the assistants are weirded out to touch me (not contagious, in case you wondered). In addition, the sweat and heat exacerbates the problem an irritation.

I have had it between my fingers and occasionally behind my knees for at least 5 years. Just an annoying little rash. About 2 years ago it spread to my elbow creases. Mine has spiraled out of control after 6 weeks of allergy shots. I am seeing a dermatologist, allergist, primary physician, and may begin seeing an internist.  For now I am ceasing the shots and started steroids to get this under control.  I think this is all important to share because it is embarrassing, it hurts, and it is causing me a great deal of physical and emotional pain. I also know that I am not the only person going through this. Many have it far worse than I do and mine may very likely fade as the effects of the allergy shots wear off.

The allergy shots have make me sick. They compromise the immune system and I feel pretty scary week when I am on them. I have discussed doing shots weekly to pinpoint exactly what gives me this reaction so we can avoid it completely or continue the shots without it, readjust my immune system through traditional process (minus the cause) and introduce the item giving me the reactant a few years into shots.

Eczema Causes Allergy Shots What Eczema Looks Like

Eczema Causes Allergy Shots What Eczema Looks Like

Eczema Causes Allergy Shots What Eczema Looks Like

Eczema Causes Allergy Shots What Eczema Looks Like

Eczema Causes Allergy Shots What Eczema Looks Like

Eczema Causes Allergy Shots What Eczema Looks Like

Eczema Causes Allergy Shots What Eczema Looks Like

Eczema usually occurs where your skin is stretched often. The stretching opens pores, is the source of bloodflow just under the skin, and has thinner skin. This includes knee creases, between fingers, elbow creases, wrists, and hands. I also get it around my back and stomach.

There are only theories of the cause and it is possible that there are hundreds of different variations. Each of those hundreds of variations can be caused by different things.

Eczema is caused by an overactive response of the immune system. It is genetic and NOT CONTAGIOUS at all. It is non-life threatening, but weak skin and open skin makes one susceptible to staph, bacterial, and viral infections that can have further symptoms and complications. The immune system has antibodies that attack the skin rather than the body. The triggers can be pinpointed, but no one has come up with the details on exactly what is happening in my skin to cause this incessant irritation, itch, and skin disease overall. Eczema affects over 3 million Americans and you most likely know quite a few people that have it.

What triggers that immune response is tricky. There is no way to pinpoint it, except process of elimination over time. Because eczema is an autoimmune disease and is commonly related to less-studied diseases, I am including some holistic theories:

  1. Food allergies
    • Gluten (wheat, barley, rye) #allergy
    • Soy #allergy
    • Eggs #allergy
    • Milk
    • Tree Nuts (Almond, pecan, pistachio, walnut, brazil nut, cashew, coconut (although there is a scientific debate on coconut being a tree nut, but it is currently classified as one) #allergy
    • Peanuts
    • Sesame
    • Shellfish
    • Other: Nightshades, Corn, Ingredients, Spices, Citrus fruits
    • Excess sugar and an adverse reaction to glucose, sucralose, and all other sugars
  2. Outdoor Allergens
    • Pollens
    • Molds
    • Trees
    • Grasses
    • Particulate Matter in air
    • Fungus
    • More…
  3. Home Pollutants
    • Pet Dander
    • Dandruff
    • Roach dander
    • Mice dander
    • Dust mites
  4. Lifestyle
    • Sweating
    • Stress
    • Dry skin
    • Cold air
    • Low humidity
    • Cigarette smoke
    • Lack of sleep
    • Excess alcohol
  5. Common skin Irritants and Contacts
    • Skincare
    • Creams
    • Metals, in particular, nickel
    • Perfumes and fragrance
    • Makeup
    • Soaps
    • Candles
    • Detergents
    • Chlorine
    • Sodium Lauryl Sulphate
    • Wool, polyester, and synthetic fabrics
    • Isothiazolinones an antibacterial that is found in personal care products like baby wipes
    • Cocamidopropyl betaine used to thicken shampoos and lotions
    • Paraphenylene-diamine, which is used in leather dyes and temporary tattoos, among others
    • Other surfactants
  6. Mutation of the gene responsible for creating the protein that keeps skin strong and thick:
    • This results in a porous, dry top layer of skin that easily allows these allergens to get under the skin. Hence, the bacteria itch. Check back later for how I deal with my flare-ups, but one thing I do is take occasional bleach baths to kill any bacteria that may be exacerbating irritation.
    • Theoretically, once a gene is mutated it cannot be unchanged so eczema could remain a lifelong problem.
  7. Obscure viruses
    • …In your body that feed on the above allergens and are destroyed by healthier foods. When you eat say, wild blueberries for example, the healthy stuff in these super foods help kill these viruses and the theory is that when the bacteria or viruses are destroyed, the leftovers are excreted through the skin, hence causing that unending itch
  8. “Leaky Gut”
    1. Bad gut bacteria allowing improperly digested foods into your system that your bloodstream is not prepared or knows how to consume, so it attacks it like an allergen.
    2. Celiacs disease can cause a degration of the intestinal villi. This can result in malabsorption of nutrients.
    3. Candidiasis
      1. A large yeast infection in your gut also weakens your villi and creates a permeable intestinal tract
      2. Sugar can breed candidiasis
  9. Acidic body, abnormal overall pH
  10. Omega-3 and essential fatty acid deficiency
  11. Liver Stress
  12. More.

Check back in two weeks to see how I react to flare ups and how to appease your symptoms. Please reach out if you have eczema and know its totes normal. I empathize and know it is miserable!

With Joy,

Audrey

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4 comments so far.

4 responses to “Eczema Causes and Triggers: A Snapshot of Quiet Pain”

  1. Mom says:

    I feel so bad for you, I’d do anything to make it go away 😢 Iloveu

  2. G says:

    I don’t buy the allergy line. However, people with allergies may have an overactive immune response. The skin is bathed in bacteria, viruses, fungi.
    A protein defect in the skin causing a loss of protective ability is more likely. I believe its a reaction to bacteria.Your skin appears very dry. Diet may play a factor as well as allergens. Try the following protocol….take 2x/d 1tblsp high quality fish oil …. swab undamaged skin area with dilute apple cider vinegar (it’s antibiotic)….apply macadamia oil to the cleansed area.(matches skins natural oils)….lightly cover over night Most improvement occurs after 6 weeks.
    My eczema always clears when I’m on antibiotics …but that’s not a viable long term solution.

    • Audrey says:

      I completely agree! Even if it is something as simple as ‘allergies,’ my change in diet the past year should have helped my eczema, but it has worsened. There has to be something more happening in my body. On the other hand, my eczema did go from mild to moderate/borderlining severe in my 6 weeks of allergy shots. The past 2 weeks it has subsided since I stopped my shots, but I seem hypersensitive to other irritants. For instance, I have been covered in hives 3 times the past 2 weeks.

      These pictures were taken at the most exacerbated moment I can recall in my history of the problem, but I run through $20 of Cerave lotion weekly.

      Unfortunately I am highly allergic to all tree nuts included macadamias. I use moroccan oil on my face at night so perhaps I could use that? I will definitely try the apple cider vinegar and fish oil, thanks for the tip!

      I have read that it can be bacterial or viral. I hope you find some answer as I know how frustrating and consuming it can be!