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Living with eczema a personal account

Renee suffered with eczema for more than 16 years but finally beat it by learning what to avoid and keeping happy.

She’s now in her mid-40s and first noticed the eczema just before she was about to graduate from college.

“I don’t know if it was the stress about going out into the working world, but it definitely started then,” said the woman, who didn’t want to share her real name.

She returned to Bermuda and started her work in the healthcare field.

“It got worse when I came home,” she said. “First it was just a rash on my hands, even between my fingers. I thought it was a reaction to soap or to certain gloves, so I switched them but it didn’t help.”

The condition worsened, and spread to most parts of her body.

“Everything was swollen, my knees, ankles, hands,” she said.

She consulted a dermatologist for some relief.

“He saw me in a three-minute appointment and gave me three pages of prescriptions,” she said.

She was stunned by his advice and convinced there was a better way.

She tried many things on her own but said it wasn’t until she met John O’Loughlin, a consultant immunologist at Bermuda Health Care Services, that she made real headway with her problem.

“He was an immunologist at [Lahey Clinic in Boston, Massachusetts] and immediately allergy tested me. He did a RAST [radioallergosorbent] test on my back. Sixteen huge welts came up and I found I was allergic to, among other things, milk and pet dander.

“He sat with me and really talked about the results and my options fully. My recollection is that he talked to me for hours. “

Renee said it was at that time that she learned that most of the allergies stemmed from her allergy to milk.

“I made an appointment with [Bermuda asthma specialist nurse] Liz Boden since asthma and eczema are often connected, and she really helped me a lot,” she said.

“I began to pay close attention to what I ate. I kept a food journal and became aware of what caused rashes.”

Through this experience, which has taken years, she learned what foods, restaurants and products to avoid.

“After eating at certain restaurants I would break out in a rash. A few hours after eating there I would feel congested and a day or two after, my legs especially, would be covered in a rash,” she said.

But it wasn’t only food that triggered her eczema. She said cold, dry weather, stress, worry and deep-seated emotional upsets also played a part.

“One year I’d just had enough of seasonal allergies and I went to Jane Lohan at the Healing Centre of Bermuda. She did biofeedback and kinesiology on me and determined the substances I was weak to. It was still milk,” said Renee.

Ms Lohan, a natural healer in several modalities, guided her through an emotional clearing.

“She went through a mantra for me that was based on me loving myself,” she said.

Renee said she noticed a dissipation of the eczema after such sessions.

“But it’s taken years,” she said. “I just paid close attention and learned through trial and error, what to avoid.”

She said her list is extensive but she doesn’t mind because she’s managed to be eczema-free for almost a year. Most laundry detergents, toiletries, certain fabrics, a variety of foods including milk and milk-based products, wheat and pet dander are some of her main triggers. But she said she’s also learned that she cannot bottle-up matters that are bothering her emotionally.

“I have to work through what the issue is to avoid a mental trigger for the eczema,” she said.

The most harrowing aspect of the condition for her was the itching. Persistent scratching often led to sores. “The itch was so great that I even scratched in my sleep,” she said.

“My husband recently told me that he would take my hands when I was scratching in my sleep and place them on the sheet. He said this would lead me to scratch the sheet instead of my skin. I had no idea this was happening and it amazes me when I think about it. I am so happy to be over it.”

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Published August 30, 2011 at 10:00 am (Updated August 29, 2011 at 7:53 pm)

Living with eczema a personal account

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