I was always told there was a chance that, as I got older, I might outgrow my eczema. Luckily, to some extent, that has been true. I no longer constantly have eczema on my legs, hands, feet, face and arms.
But that’s not to say that I don’t usually have eczema on one or more parts of my body. Just now, my eczema seems to rotate around. It might spend a few months on my legs and hands and then rotate to a different part of my body. Even now, I am never without an eczema flare. These flares include co-occurring incidences of nummular eczema, atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema and eyelid eczema.
Right now, as I write this I, am experiencing a minor flare of atopic dermatitis on my hands and another outbreak on my legs. The eczema flare on my legs is a new type of eczema that I have only started experiencing in the past few years: nummular eczema. his type of eczema appears as little, round, scaly spots. It can be extremely itchy or not at all.
The nummular eczema first appeared on my upper thighs a few years back. I had no idea what it was at the time. Over the years, it has still mainly stayed on my thighs, but more recently it has started to appear in little spots on my arms as well. This is an extremely hard type of eczema to clear-up, and I have tried many things to no avail. But since it doesn’t itch, I don’t really mind it that much.
The eczema flares I get on my hands are another story completely. These are typically atopic dermatitis but can also be contact dermatitis. It’s a matter of figuring out which type of eczema it is and dealing with it properly.
If it’s atopic dermatitis, then I make sure to use my creams and lotions, keep my skin hydrated, and if it’s bad enough, cover my hands in cotton gloves so I can’t scratch. If it’s contact dermatitis, I have to figure out what I touched that would have triggered a flare up. Usually it’s harsh chemicals.
Identifying eczema triggers takes guesswork
At my gym, they ask that everyone use a multi-purpose cleaner that they provide and paper towels to wash down the machines after use. When I first started at my gym, I noticed that every time I used a machine that had just been wiped down, my hands would flare very badly. They would get itchy, red, hot, and then rash.
In that case, the trigger was the cleaning solution my gym was using. Other times, I have flared at work just by touching an item that had recently been cleaned with Lysol or bleach. A bout of contact dermatitis can also be triggered by cutting certain foods like tomatoes, potatoes or oranges. When it’s contact dermatitis that is causing my flare, it can usually be resolved by removing myself from the allergen. It might take a while for my skin to calm down, but it’s an easier flare to resolve.
Another type of eczema that I deal with as an adult is eyelid eczema. I had never experienced this as a child. When I was younger, eczema would appear on my face, but never on my eyelids. A few years back, I had a case of pink eye. It turns out that I was allergic to the eyedrops I had been prescribed. This triggered my first-ever bout with eyelid eczema.
And ever since then, my eczema realized it had a new place to flare. I deal with eyelid eczema a lot, and it’s very hard to deal with. It hurts, it’s itchy and extremely embarrassing. I feel very self-conscious when my eyelids are bright red, scaly and dry.
Co-occurring eczema is something that, as an adult, I deal with on a constant basis. There have been times where I am dealing with nummular eczema, eyelid eczema, and atopic or contact dermatitis all at the same time! Each requires a different treatment regimen.
Eczema as an adult affects all parts of my life. A flare might stop me from going to the gym or going to work. A very bad flare might actually cause my entire body to feel inflamed to the point where I can’t get out of bed.
In some ways, my eczema is worse as an adult because the treatments I had used as a child no longer work on me. A lot of times, it’s a guessing game between trying different treatments and hoping one of them works.
But through it all, I never give up hope. I know that new things are being discovered all the time. And I hope that one day a cure for all forms of eczema will be found.
Joan R. Wanamaker lives in scenic Hudson Valley, New York, with her husband, Justin, and two furry children, Roxie and Lani. She runs the blog MyMudLife.org and just released a book titled My M.U.D. Life: Making Mindful Unique Decisions Every Day, which is currently available on LuLu.com and will soon be available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.