For those following my story, you will know I've been going through a difficult time with my eczema in recent years. My skin was unbearable, red, itchy, dry, flaky and incredibly painful. It affected every area of my life, greatly reducing my quality of life. The only option given to me was to take immunosuppressant drugs (which I refused for 4 years). I finally got to the bottom of my problem - an addiction to Topical Steroid Creams!! After a 5 1/2 month detox, my skin is finally looking great and I feel well again.
I would never be where I am today if it wasn't for todays guest Janelle! I had never heard of a steroid addiction and I always used them according to doctors directions. The only warning I have ever heard was that they could 'thin the skin'. I am on a mission to raise awareness of TOPICAL STEROID ADDICTION (TSA) to the many people who have eczema. It's my pleasure to share Janelle's story with you today...
By reaching out to me when I needed it, and sharing her story, she has changed my life. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to share this blog post with you today. If you suffer from eczema you need to keep reading!
I have had a lifetime of allergies. As a very
young child, I had horrible asthma spending hours on the nebulizers, stints in
hospital, sneezing fits at school and breaking out in hives at friends houses
from cats and dust. The signs were always there. Pizza made me sick. Fur gave
me hives. Dust and pollen sent me into sneezing fits and God forbid I run or
sit on grass; Asthma episode here we come! But I seemingly grew out of it.
Until I was about 21.
Over the next two years my symptoms became
worse. I had constant chronic hey-fever. I could only find relief through
Phenergan. I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without needing ventolin. And
little red blistery bumps started coming up on the backs of my legs and around
my mouth. Numerous trips to the doctors
led to nothing except more anti-histamines and stronger doses of preventative
asthmatic medications (which are steroids by the way). In the end I convinced my GP to refer me to
an asthma specialist. Tests revealed there was
nothing wrong. My lung function and capacity was well above average for a
woman my age and weight (I was about 68kg and only 23 years old). So why did I
need so many asthma preventatives? Why was I so sick?
The specialist sent me to a dietician who asked
me what I ate and it read like this… ‘Cheese,
tomatoes, chilies, olives, avocado, chilies, more olives, bread, yoghurt, and
more chilies’. I couldn’t get enough chili. So over the next 6 months I
went on elimination diets and she helped me monitor the re-introduction of
foods to find my trigger, which turns out to be salicylates. Salicylates are a
naturally occurring chemical found in plants and in foods in various levels.
They are changed to benzoates and used in skin and hair care products as
preservatives. Nightmare begins. I spent hours reading labels, taking lists of
chemical names into chemists (who knew NOTHING by the way) not to mention
fighting the intense cravings for all the foods that made my feel bad. I found
a website that saved my life and was able to eliminate foods from my diet and
find suitable skin and hair care. Within 3 weeks I noticed a difference in my
skin. And within 6 weeks my hay-fever had almost gone and within 2 months my
breathing had improved. Initially I
would eat trigger foods and see a reaction within 12 hours. However as time
passed my tolerance improved and now I can eat a few olives and chilies.
unfit and unhealthy
8 years later, during my second pregnancy all my allergies disappeared. Every day
the only foods that calmed my morning sickness were grapes and fresh orange
juice. I ate so much it wasn’t funny. Previously I would have been so itchy and
sneezy but not one spot of eczema. Not
one sneeze. I suffered from terrible pregnancy asthma and at the time thought
nothing of it. Now I know what I know I am convinced the trigger foods
contributed to my asthma. But doctors assured me that pregnancy asthma was
normal for asthmatics.
When baby was 3 months old, out of nowhere
I get this rash on my stomach. It’s as itchy as hell. It spreads. Rapidly.
Within a few hours. Across my stomach. Under my arms. On the tops of my legs. I
scratched so hard patches began to bleed. I went to the doctor who took a quick
look and prescribed a class 4 steroid. No
questions asked. No tests. No follow up. Like magic, the rash disappears.
But, the rash returns. So, back on with the steroid cream. The rash disappears.
I go back and forth, more cream, no rash. More cream no rash. I turned into a
bit of an addict and would go to different doctors to make sure I had enough
cream, as the tubes are small and there are prescription limits. God forbid I should
run out and become itchy.
returns: with vengeance
About 2 week into withdrawals. This was 1000 times worse than ANY eczema
I had ever had. It felt like a burn from fire. It was worse 2 weeks previous
to this photo.
itchy, steroids not working
After about 2 years, the steroid cream is
not working. In the end I had tried about 5 different steroid creams. One
doctor even prescribed me a cream for my face! One night I didn’t put the
steroid creams on after my shower as I felt guilty about frequent use when it
says to only use for a few days. All hell broke loose. My face started burning.
I thought I was sunburnt but then little bumps started appearing. Within about
40 minutes my face was fire red covered in tiny hot itchy stingy blisters. My
husband and I goggled. We looked at what I had eaten that day and thought I was
having an allergy to cabbage, as it is my ‘safe’ food and I live on it. In the
end I plastered my face with steroid cream. It took 3 days for my skin to
subside and return to normal. And then I stopped the cream again. My face went
mad again. The pain is indescribable. It’s hot. It burns. It’s itchy. It hurts.
It throbs. So I got onto Google again. This time I typed in steroids and red skin. Oh boy, was I
shocked at what I uncovered. Steroid addiction. My skin was having withdrawals
from the steroids.
|About 4 weeks into withdrawals. |
Everyday I used paw paw ointment to help heal and keep it moist.
Zinc cream to help heal and stop the itching.
At this stage my face stopped producing the top layer of flaky skin but
still was very painful and sensitive.
|April 2013, |
My skin has completely healed. This is me make up free after a shower so I am a
little red but not sore. A little mineral powder to even out my complexion is all I need.
|April 2013, |
10 mins after picture 3. I have a good layer of Nivea cream and then Clinique stay matte (salicylate free).
I find this stays on all day, my skin doesn’t dry out and the cream and make up work well together.
That makeup can go a bit patchy on other
1. Steroids are poison. They do not help your body in any way. They mask the problem. They do not facilitate healing.
2. They make the blood vessels constrict which means blood flow is restricted, the swelling goes down, the redness appears less but the problem remains. After a while vessels loose their ability to constrict on their own, which means your skin will stay inflamed, swollen, red and itchy without steroids.
3. Atopic steroids break down the elasticity in the upper layers of the skin causing the skin to become thin and age prematurely. But in the deep layers of the skin the cause the collagen layers to harden and clump together. On other parts of the body they cause stretch marks and discoloration that can be irreparable.
4. From the minute you first use it, your skin becomes addicted which means you will always need more. The problem will never go away. Eventually you will be in hospital with shots of steroids and more and more potent creams. But the problems will get worse. The only way is top stop. Completely.
5. You skin is a reflection of your gut. If you gut is unhappy it will reflect in your skin. All our eczema skin conditions are related to diet and each person has a trigger food that sets off their eczema.
Asthma and allergies are linked
Asthma preventatives in particular are types of steroids and they have the same effect on the alveoli in your lungs as on your skin. Once I found this out, I stopped using my preventative to see if I really needed it. Initially I felt lost, like I couldn’t breathe without it, however I have since understood this is mental and have given my lungs time to heal. I still need ventolin from time to time as I am an asthmatic and my chest gets wheezy with triggers like dust and pollen. But ventolin is not a steroid. I haven’t taken asthmatic preventatives for about 6 months, like I had been advised since I was about 13 and steroids for asthma really came on the market. My lungs are better than ever. I can run 5km for the first time in my life. I go out for exercise without my ventolin tucked in my bra and without the fear of having an asthma attack while running or riding. I don’t panic if I get to work and realize I have left my pump at home.
Find your trigger. This is hard and can be time consuming but it’s worth it. Allergy tests and elimination diets take perseverance and patience. Once you find your trigger, eliminate it. Heal your gut. Heal your skin. Heal your lungs. Empower yourself with knowledge. If you use steroids, google steroid addiction and ITSAN and you will find blog after blog of other’s journey. Everyone has different triggers and remedies. What works for one doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you but it’s worth a try!
My saviours were paw-paw ointment, Banana Boat mineral based sun cream (full of zinc which heals and without benzoates) and now Nivea cream original.
Get some zinc. I found the zinc in cream stopped the itching. Zinc helps the skin tissue heal even if you don’t use steroids, but suffer from eczema you will find zinc helps a lot. Exercise. Exercise has been proven to improve asthma and also helps the circulation of blood through your vessels, and in turn your skin produces collagen. Plus there is much much more.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want any more information on my experience.
Hope this has helped shed some light on steroid use - what we aren't told! A huge thanks to Janelle for allowing me to share her story with you. More information can be found here..
ITSAN - International Topical Steroid Addiction Network
Please share this with anyone you know who suffers from eczema or who uses Topical Steroid cream. You could change their life!