My 5-Year Eczema , Red Skin Syndrome and Topical Steroid Withdrawal Syndrome Story (Part 1)

I’ve decided to make my eczema story into two parts.  According to my sister who is a
doctor, eczema is a very common skin disease that only I make a deal of.  But, my
experience has been a physical, emotional and psychological roller coaster.  And, this is a my story has no reference to the medical approach okay?

I am a Chinese woman residing in Manila who is as of time of writing (December 5, 2016) 29 years old.  Since childhood, I have loved eating sweets, junk food (especially Oreo), ice cream and micro-waved popcorn.  I could finish a gallon on my own.  And, I ate micro-waved popcorn almost every single day.  Since childhood I also had sinusitis.  I couldn’t stand the smell of perfume or weird smells like our ancestral home in Ilocos Sur laden with dried Tobacco.  Whenever, the air-conditioning was strong, my sinusitis is also triggered.  Therefore, you can say that I always have a bunch of tissue paper with me.  When I entered into law school in 2009 and at the same time had some online business, I had difficulty handling stress.  I often had fever, flu or vertigo with blurred vision.  I also had chronic constipation since childhood.

Around October 2011, I had a mosquito bite around my left lower front leg.  It was irritatingly itchy so I scratched it and it bled.  My Ex back then saw it and told me I shouldn’t scratch it so he bought “Katinko” and alcohol to clean it.  To my surprise, it flared and burned in both pain and itch and I cried.  A few days later, it grew into bigger in a circular form.  And, a few more days it multiplied into four.

My mom saw it and suggested that I visit a dermatologist who diagnosed it as Discoid Eczema.  She even got a photo and marked the spot on a picture of a human body - my medical record.  She suggested that I used a hydrocortisone (steroid) cream.  I used it for a week and like magic the small coin-like wounds disappeared.

At around April 2012, we went to the Manila Ocean Park and the fish spa triggered the four eczema wounds to be back.  It was bigger and oozing even more.  I applied the cream and it healed slowly but it made dark coin bruises that won’t go away.  My aunt noticed it and that's when I realized it doesn't go away... (Not until 3 years after!)

Around June 2012, I noticed that whenever I had mosquito bites (which was often), they would transform into discoid eczema and it scared me.  So Ex and I paid the dermatologist another visit (She added more spots on my medical record) and took it lightly saying I just have to wear pants to avoid them and just apply the cream whenever I have it.  At this time, I have yet to expect what will happen next.  In fact, all I remember was Ex and I having fun on the way back.

I took some time off from school and my flu lessened a bit.  and I didn’t have any Discoid Eczema during that time because I  began to working out and lost a lot of weight.

Early 2013, I got back to school.  And, I noticed that I am no longer having any flu but the Discoid Eczema keeps on popping out in different areas which I’m certain were out of mosquitoes’ reach.  I had some on my lower back, butt, face (near the eye) and many more.  I kept on putting some cream on and whenever I do it disappears in one spot and pops out in another new spot.  Thus, I ended up having a lot of bruised spots all over my body.  It also prevented me from exercising because the sweat made the eczema itch.

On June 2013, I had a Discoid Eczema on my right arm which transfored everything the ooze touches into an eczema forming a flaking red oozing reptile-like skin map from my right arm to my elbow and into my lower arm.  It disappeared after the magical cream.  It was also this time that our maltese Lychee got pregnant and I failed to deliver the puppy and it died.  It really got me down.  It led me to making a decision of a lifetime and gave her to Ex.

By January 2014, I discovered I had shrimp allergies that triggered my eczema.

On March 2014, I went on a foodtrip to Baguio.  The big map eczema on my right arm reappeared and I could no longer stop it with cream.  It just kept on getting bigger faster and oozing more violently.  (Medically, they refer to this as the Red Skin Syndrome [RSS] or Topical Steroid Withdrawal Syndrome [TSW]) This is when I noticed that I became allergic to almost everything!  I couldn’t have all crustaceans, grills, fried, sashimi, caffeine, sugar, milk, nuts and night shades plants containing solanaceae/saponins (potatoes, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, cucumber, pimentos, paprika, and cayenne peppers).  As soon as I returned home, I stopped eating rice (having same reaction as with sugar) and shifted to boiled egg instead because it was easy to cook and it made me full.  I later found out through applying the egg white on my skin that I was also allergic to egg too so I ate our usual home viands without rice.  I just listened to my bodies reaction on which to eat or not to eat.  (I'm still doing that until now)

On June 2014, thinking it was just stress, I went to a hotel in Tagaytay for an overnight stay.  I swam in the swimming pool and as soon as I got home I had eczema (in all size and shapes) all over my body.  It was oozing and spreading, flaring and itching like wildfire.  I could no longer sleep because I was always oozing and itching.  My bed is covered in skin flakes, yellow crusty scales and blood… During those sleepless nights, I began to realize how much I’ve taken things for granted.  I’ve began to appreciate what it like to have a good night sleep or having a healthy body. 

At the same time, I was so afraid.  I felt like a monster.  I couldn’t understand why it was happening to me.  I don’t have asthma like my father and sister and no one in our family ever had eczema.  I felt like my body was betraying me.  The stress from the fear and sleepless nights made it even worse.

My family was forcing me to go back to the dermatologist (I didn’t because I knew like the previous 3 times she would only suggest the cream and draw more spots on my medical record) or they’ll call the psych ward thinking I’ve gone psychotic.  Perhaps, it was true.  I could no longer focus.  I was agitated or frustrated.  I had lost hope in life and in myself.  I refused to go out with the family.  But, since I was paying for my classes, I forced myself to attend.  I had to cling wrap myself like a mummy and wear long sleeves and pants even during summer!  And, it smells so bad (like rotten eggs) so I had to sit on the corner of the classroom all the time away from everyone.  At home, I had to stay secluded too because they couldn’t stand the smell.  And, I couldn’t go near my 6 dogs either because I’m allergic to them.  At this point, my decision to give up Lychee who usually slept by my bed side was confirmed to be right. 

End of Part 1... See Part 2