sex

"My eczema was so bad I had to change my bed sheets every day."

Images courtesy of Amy-Louise James.

When you hear the word ‘eczema’, you probably envision small patches of scaly, itchy skin that flare up occasionally when the weather changes. For some people living with the skin condition, that might well be the reality — but eczema can also be so severe it impacts on someone’s day to day life.

Amy-Louise James knows this feeling. The 25-year-old developed eczema when she was just three-years-old, and by the time she hit her mid-teens it affected her entire body with the exception of her feet.

RELATED: 5 skin symptoms that can signal an underlying health problem.

“I had to change my bed every day because there would be so much skin and my eczema wept so much the sheets got all sticky. I itched constantly and there would be blood on the sheets too. It was just permanently painful,” James tells the Daily Mail.

Amy during a flare-up (right) and with clearer skin (left)

James also recalls feeling compelled to apologise to strangers in public, as her raw, scratched skin would sometimes flake off and cause a "snowstorm" as she walked.

These issues continued when James finished high school and went to college; on some days she was so self-conscious about her skin she wouldn't leave her room.

RELATED: The top 7 myths about skin. Busted.

When light treatment, herbal remedies, creams and other medications failed to combat her eczema, James turned to steroid cream. Although the cream was effective when she first applied it, her eczema flare-ups became more severe each time they returned.

Eventually, on her doctor's recommendation and after learning they were linked to worsening eczema, James ceased using the topical steroids. Now, she's documenting her withdrawal experiences — and her life with severe eczema more generally — on her blog 'Did someone say cheese?'.

"Sometimes it takes a fellow eczema sufferer to truly understand. So, that’s what I’m here for — I’m here for those 2am scratching fests and those tears before having to venture out in public or go to work," she tells her fellow 'eczema warriors'.

"It’s hard enough for someone with beautiful skin to accept their appearance so it’s 10 times worse for us scabby, weepy, bloody, patchy, itchy lot to be happy with the way that we look." 

ADVERTISEMENT

RELATED: Rubbing animal fat into your skin is a thing now.

In one section of the blog, James writes a daily journal of her topical steroid withdrawal, accompanied by photos that illustrate the incredibly painful symptoms she's been enduring, including sleepless nights, immense itchiness, tight sore skin, oozing scabs and hair loss.

"I have to be careful with my hair as it's holding on by a thread. I think others in my condition would have shaved their heads. It upsets me as I got my hair really long and healthy and then one day it started to fall out. I back-comb it to cover up bald patches. I'm trying to make the best of it," she tells the Daily Mail. 

James also provides techniques to disguise eczema subtly with clothing and makeup, product reviews, and her recommendations on ways to soothe the itching. One of her preferred methods is soaking in a bath with supermarket oats tied inside an old stocking.

"Having an oat bath when feeling itchy and irritant will certainly soothe those angry patches, or in most of our cases, our whole bodies. Itchy skin has a high PH level and the oatmeal helps bring it back down which in turn relieves your itch," she writes.

RELATED: 3 foods that could be messing with your skin

Thankfully, anti-histamines and home treatments like this have helped to remedy James' eczema; she says her face, stomach and legs have significantly cleared up. Despite her ongoing pain and discomfort, she's trying to focus on the lighter side of her condition and keep a sense of humour.

"I often find myself on the floor in an upright foetal position in a constant scratching frenzy and wondering, is this what it would feel like to have fleas!?" James writes.

"If there is one thing I have taken from living with eczema and having to deal with the dip in self-confidence, the not wanting to go out, the sleepless nights, the agonising pain and the continuous dry red skin, it would be to just not take life so seriously."

You can read more on Amy-Louise James' blog here.  You can also follow her on Instagram here.

Eczema is more common than you think. These celebrities reportedly live with it: