My 3-Month Eczema Journey with a New Allergist. I Feel Pretty Again!

January Through Early February

 
 

I started 2017 with moderate to severe eczema throughout January. In early February, six weeks ago, I spontaneously decided to get a new allergist, because I felt I was in a rut. He found a vitamin D deficiency in me, which he says is common with severe eczema patients. My doctor also had plans A, B and C for how he would treat my eczema. I was ecstatic and hopeful. 

Treatments

Vitamin D supplements: A blood test showed my vitamin D level was 23.7 ng/ml. The normal rate is 40-60 and should be even higher for eczema sufferers, according to my allergist. I was prescribed vitamin D pills of 10,000 units each and took 2 pills per week. A few weeks ago, I got tested again and my vitamin D level was 77. My allergist told me to take 1,000 units of vitamin D per day moving forward. 

Antihistamines: Before seeing my new allergist, I had been taking two Claritin Reditabs every morning for months. He recommended I increase my antihistamines and also take two Zyrtec in the evening. I don't think the brands matter, but I have a preference for Claritin Reditabs. 

Probiotics: My mother-in-law has an endocrinology degree and is a big believer in probiotics and gut health. She recommends Align to help my eczema. I asked my new allergist about this and he agreed and said it helps some people, so asked that I take Align daily. 

Steroid Pills: When I saw my allergist in early February, I begged for steroids. Within a few days of my steroid pack, my eczema began returning! So, at my two-week checkup, my allergist told me to stop my steroid pack and take 10mg of prednisone daily for ten days - the steroid amount I took before my eczema started returning during my steroid pack. He hoped my vitamin D levels would be high enough to help my body fight the eczema when the ten days were up. I finished the steroids three weeks ago.

Steroid Creams: For at least two years, I've been using Alclometasone Dipropionate Ointment (0.05%) for my face and Triamcinolone Acetonide Ointment (1%) for my body. My doctor asked me to continue using that and I have been. In my doctor appointment one week ago, he gave me Tacrolimus Ointment (Protopic, 0.1%) for my face, but I haven't had to use it yet.

Bleach Baths: My allergist recommended bleach baths in my first two appointments, but I was hesitant, so he recommended CLn body wash as an alternative. In my last appointment, one week ago, my allergist pushed harder on my doing bleach baths. I've taken three so far and they're not as bad as I expected! I was really scared to put my flared-up body in bleach water, but it's minimal bleach and doesn't hurt much more than plain water. I use a quarter cup in a bathtub of water, but it can be up to a quarter cup, depending on the bleach's concentration. 

Foods: I was vegetarian for three years until last November, because my newborn was allergic to my breast milk. I began eating meat and fish, but stopped consuming dairy and soy. I stopped breast feeding two weeks ago and added dairy and soy back to my diet at the same time. I've not gone back to vegetarianism yet.

Regarding my food allergies, I've had tons throughout the last 6 years, but the number of allergies has decreased in each new allergy test. When I was tested in February by my new allergist, my results showed zero food allergies!

My Skin Today (End of March)

My face is 95% better and my body is 50% better. My eczema is mild to moderate now versus moderate to severe. Although my body is slowly getting worse since I've been off steroids (mainly on my back and arms), it's still better than it was in January before my new treatments. I know eczema too well to think I've been cured and know there's still a tough road ahead, but I'm an optimist at heart and I've sure felt positive about my recovery so far! And others are noticing as well. The grocery store cashier carded me last week and afterwards still didn't believe I was over 21! And a coworker (female and a friend) randomly told me how beautiful she thought I was - and even on a day when my face wasn't 100%. I feel pretty again!

 
 

My Vitamin D is Low! Great News!

Last week, after weeks of difficult flare-ups, I decided to try a new allergist. I've only used one and have had her for ten years. Although she's a well-recommended doctor, I felt I was in a slump. I was tired of steroids, the hot skin, the redness, the flakiness, the itchiness, the discomfort, the swelling, the horrible way I looked, the lack of sleep ... I needed to try something new. I wanted to stop the eczema altogether and not just treat it. Wishful thinking, I know. 

I went to my new allergist a few days ago and got retested. My amazing husband and baby came along to support me while I got stabbed with a trillion needles. Typically, the full back is used for the allergy test, but my lower and upper back were super flared up. I convinced the nurses and doctors to use the top of my legs (they finally cleared up a bit!) and parts of the top of my arm, along with the middle of my back. They were the only clear parts of my body and it was just enough for the allergy test! Score! 

 
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A trillion needle stabs later, the results showed I have super severe dust mite and cat allergies. I knew that. Oddly, all my food allergies were gone! My new doctor was very inquisitive and seemed super knowledgeable and experienced. He wanted to test my vitamin D levels, because in his experience it tends to be low with eczema patients. This was news to me! I got the blood results today and my vitamin D is low! This means I can get vitamin D supplements and hopefully my eczema gets much more under control. My doctor wants me to continue my allergy shots for the dust mite and cat allergies, but get much higher doses than what I was doing before with my old allergist.

New doctor, new results, new hope. This is the best day in a long time ... since I had my baby four months ago. I am so happy and hopeful today! Fingers crossed that I am on my last steroid pack now!

 
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Skin Turning

I may not be a werewolf, but I sure feel like one when I say that my skin is turning. The good days lasted less than a week, but I sure enjoyed them while they were here. My face definitely started turning yesterday. The skin got itchier, turned red, warmed up, became thicker, then the red turned into more of a purple today and it's starting to look swollen. And it's still transforming now! The dry patches are getting dryer and the itchiness is pretty bad and it's hot to the touch. Can you tell the difference? I know I can!

My beautiful face two days ago! 

My beautiful face two days ago! 

Yesterday. Those who don't know me may think this is what I always look like, but not so! There are bags and lines under my eyes, my eyes look smaller altogether, my complexion is worse, and I just look like a bigger mess in a can't-put-your-finger-on-it way.

Yesterday. Those who don't know me may think this is what I always look like, but not so! There are bags and lines under my eyes, my eyes look smaller altogether, my complexion is worse, and I just look like a bigger mess in a can't-put-your-finger-on-it way.

And this is me today with purply red and swollen skin. Super itchy! And the transformation is still going on.

And this is me today with purply red and swollen skin. Super itchy! And the transformation is still going on.

If my doctor and pharmacist hadn't accidentally given me a 6-day steroid pack yesterday, I would be starting my steroid pill treatment right now. A 6-day pack is too fast; it needs to be a longer lasting treatment or else my eczema will bounce back harder than before. I need something for at least two weeks ... a full month ... forever! Okay, that's too long. Steroid pills are unhealthy, I know. But wouldn't it be great to have the healthy skin permanently?! Let's deal with one day at a time for now. I'll stay out of the Houston heat this weekend and will get the correct steroid pack on Monday, then I'm off for my second babymoon (this time with a best friend) in London and Scotland next weekend ... with what better be amazing skin!

Return to Normalcy!

It's been 3 good days in a row. I still can't believe it! My face is basically back to normal. No swelling, no shedding, no redness, no weeping. It's a tiny bit itchy and a tiny bit dry, but it looks fantastic.

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And much of my body has healed - my legs are still rashy, red, itchy and with scabs, but they are getting better.

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Why the miraculous recovery? I'm not totally sure. At the end of last week, I caved and started using steroid creams on my body. Soon after, my face cleared up. But I didn't use steroid creams on my face ... It's a little odd. My body is still itchy - not as bad as it was, but still itchy. I've been sleeping much better the last few days, but last night, I did have a disruptive night because of my itchy body. It's almost as if I still have eczema symptoms on a body that is disguising itself as normal. I think the reality is that my body is trying to stay flared up, but the steroid creams are pulling it back. An internal eczema fight! I know who I'm rooting for ...

Here's the deal on steroids and my pregnancy: I've been avoiding them throughout my entire pregnancy and it has been hell. My dermatologist and allergist told me to not take them and my OBGYN all along has said they are okay. I saw my OBGYN last Friday and asked why she had a different opinion. She said people tend to overreact with pregnant woman and very confidently said that steroid creams and pills are okay during pregnancy. She guaranteed that the medication doesn't cross the placenta. So yes, it's still a category C medication, where a woman should only take it if the benefits outweigh the risks, but the reality is that the risks are itty bitty. I take itty bitty risks all the time. Getting in my car and driving in the rain is a risk, for crying out loud.

So, I ordered a steroid pack. Coincidentally, my skin got better at the same time, so I didn't start it, but I plan on using it if my skin turns again. I'm not going back to how it has been the last five months. I'm going to focus on my pregnancy instead of my skin. I swear, I can feel her kicking more all of a sudden. It's probably because I'm not obsessing over my itchy skin. I am full of hope, optimism and happiness right now! 

 

 

Steroid Conundrum While Pregnant

The thing about chronic eczema is that it needs to be treated continuously. If you're lucky, you'll find something that works for a good amount of time. Nothing will work forever, since the body changes and adapts. For me, herbal pills seem to help.

Steroid packs help, of course, but they're not great. Once the pack is finished, the body rebounds pretty hard at times and the eczema comes right back, maybe even worse. Wouldn't it be wonderful if steroid packs had zero negative side effects and could be taken forever? The reality is that they're pretty unhealthy and I try to avoid them as much as possible. What about steroid creams? I gave those up years ago after I lathered myself with them for years. I am quite certain that I permanently damaged my skin around my eyes and mouth (two main eczema-prone spots for me) and will likely look like a 120-year-old by the time I'm 60. Thus, I am super hesitant about using steroid creams. 

Insert my pregnancy into the mix. Now I'm unable to take my herbal pills and my eczema has crept into unbearable levels. My dermatologist confirmed the mess on my face is indeed eczema and nothing else. She gave me steroid creams and told me to hold off on the steroid pack, since "it could be worse." (It could be worse! Oh, eczema.) Both steroid creams and steroid packs are category C treatments. In the pregnancy world, category C is a label used for products that have been known to hurt animal fetuses, but enough studies haven't been done to confirm the same for humans. A pregnant woman is advised to only use category C products if the benefits outweigh the risks. Well, damn. Put that way, I'm going to avoid all category C products unless absolutely necessary. I'd rather not sleep well and tear my skin out rather than hurt the growing baby inside me. My dermatologist confirmed the munchkin isn't getting hurt by my flare-up. It's all superficial and only felt by me. Except the not sleeping well, of course. 

So I will continue to hold off. If, later on, I'm so unhealthy that it's affecting my pregnancy, I'll reconsider the steroid creams and packs. Even though my OBGYN is okay with my taking the medications, I'd rather stay on the safe side. Scratch, scratch, scratch ...

 

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