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'My eczema became so severe, that I couldn’t wear clothes or leave the house'

Eczema (also known as dermatitis) is a common skin condition which, together with contact dermatitis, accounts for 84-90% of occupational skin disease. It is a highly individual condition which varies from person to person and comes, and it comes in many different forms. Eczema affects people of all ages, but it is primarily seen in children. Accoding to the National Eczema Society, one in twelve adults have eczema, while one in five children are affected.

In mild cases of eczema, the skin is dry, scaly, red and itchy, and in more severe cases, the symptoms can be have a considerable effect on a person's quality of life. In these cases, constant scratching can cause the skin to split and bleed, and leaves it open to infection.

For National Eczema Awareness week, we spoke to eczema sufferer Joanna Rose-Hazel about her experience, and how she has managed to live with and improve her symptoms.

'Roughly two years ago I was suffering with chronic eczema that covered me from head to toe. It started to flare up gradually during my second pregnancy, and really started to take hold during my third pregnancy and thereafter. It was so painful, and almost unbearable as it would itch so much and weep uncontrollably, especially after I had scratched it.

I began reading into ways I could eliminate my eczema and decided to take a natural approach. As I began to change my diet, my skin gradually got worse and worse until I had eczema all over my chest and face. It was at this point, I went to the hospital to see a Dermatologist and they offered me steroids to calm down my flare up. Although I explained to him I was trying to heal without steroids, he was adamant that it was impossible and that eczema was caused by genetics. The only thing that would help me would be a course of steroids, and using them whenever I had a flare up.

Although this made no sense to me, and went against everything I had learnt, I was so panicked that I took the steroids prescribed. In a week, my skin appeared to have cleared up completely, but by the second week my hands began to bubble over and an eczema type rash began to appear all over my scalp and head.

I called the Dermatologist and he offered me stronger steroids as well as steroid shampoo for my hair. At this point I was so frustrated because all I wanted was for someone to look deeper and find out what was triggering it.

I stopped using the steroids completely and within a couple of days the eczema was back but ten times worse, with the additional eczema now on the palms of my hands and head. It took almost a year to clear up my skin, but it wasn’t easy at all. There were many days I felt almost suicidal because I just wanted the suffering and pain to stop. Taking showers or baths was unbearable and everything I enjoyed doing caused too much discomfort. At times, my skin would weep so much I couldn’t wear clothes or leave the house.

Healing eczema naturally is no easy feat, but it can be done. I began by eating a whole food, plant based diet with majority organic fruits and vegetables, but it was when I cut grains and beans out of my diet for a month that I saw dramatic and almost miraculous healing.

Now my skin is better, it made sense to me to do everything I could to help other people, especially because when I was going through it I felt so isolated. I honestly didn’t realise that so many others were suffering the way I did!

Although healing eczema naturally isn’t easy, I am a living testimony that it’s not impossible. My advice to anyone suffering with eczema or any other skin condition is to never underestimate the importance or potential of diet in managing the symptoms. Also, exercising regularly and managing stress levels is just as important.'

For more information and support visit the National Eczema Society website.

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