The only way to ‘cure’ my agonising eczema was to STOP treatment – after I suffered horrendous withdrawal

The Sun 1 month ago

ALL her life Holly Broome has lived with the agony of eczema.

She was diagnosed with the painful condition at the age of just two weeks.

Holly was born with atopic dermatitis but it wasn’t discovered until she was two weeks old

And by the time she was five it was so severe she was hospitalised, and wrapped in bandages to stop her scratching herself.

Holly said she constantly prescribed oral steroids, but her eczema just got progressively worse.

It was only after years of struggling that the now 24-year-old has discovered a way to ease her eczema – to stop her steroid treatment altogether.

The graphic designer, from London, first learned about topical steroid withdrawal (TSW) in February 2018 after researching treatments.

Holly was hospitalised at the age of five because her eczema was so severe
Holly eased her eczema by stopping her steroid treatment altogether

Convinced it was making her condition worse, she decided to stop the treatment last April.

And while her skin still flares up every now and then, Holly says she finally has her eczema under control.

She says: “I don’t want to claim that I’ve healed my eczema, but I’ve found a way to control the condition which goes against any advice my doctors gave me.

“Currently, steroids are handed out like sweets with little instruction on how to use them properly or when to stop.”

Holly says her skin never responded well to steroids and it was often felt “red” and “burning hot”
Holly only had small patches of eczema during her teenage years

Holly was born with atopic dermatitis but it wasn’t discovered until she was two weeks old, and from then it became progressively worse.

She said: “I’ve struggled with eczema my whole life after it presented itself when I was two weeks old and got steadily worse until I was hospitalised aged five.

“I was wet wrapped in steroid bandages and was constantly on oral steroids and antibiotics. I remember waking up every night and scratching until my bandages fell off.

“My skin never responded particularly well to steroids, it was always so red and burning hot.

“Thankfully my skin calmed down for most of my teenage years and I only had small patches of eczema. My skin was generally dry but nothing too uncomfortable.”

Holly’s eczema flared-up on her back, legs and arms during a stressful period in her life
At first, Holly’s GP blamed her for not moisturising enough

Despite this, Holly’s eczema flared-up on her back, legs and arms when she was at university in 2017 – due to the stress of discovering her mum had a brain tumour.

She revealed: “I went through an incredibly stressful period whilst at university.

“I lived in a shared house with people who made my life difficult and at the same time my mum was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

I don’t want to claim that I’ve healed my eczema, but I’ve found a way to control the condition which goes against any advice my doctors gave me

Holly Broome

“Stress is my biggest trigger so throughout this stressful period my skin kept flaring, and I did what anyone else with eczema would do: I went to the doctors.

“The GP took a quick look at my skin, which by that point was the worst it had been in years, and told me I wasn’t moisturising enough, that I wasn’t using a strong enough steroid and she said ‘it’s not that bad, I’ve seen worse’.

“I left that appointment feeling completely deflated.”

Holly was in constant agony with her skin radiating heat
Holly’s eczema spread all over her torso, arms and face

Holly says the doctor had “dismissed her suffering based on other people’s eczema” and she was blamed for not managing her eczema properly.

She added: “I was moisturising twice a day, applying steroids once a day, and taking the usual precautions such as cool showers, but apparently this wasn’t enough.

“Using Eumovate, my skin did calm down, but only a few months after I graduated it came back again.”

During the summer of 2017, Holly’s skin seemed to be getting worse and the rash on her back was spreading all over her torso, arms and face.

She was in constant agony with her skin radiating heat and it became painful to shower.

Holly struggled to get out of bed in the morning when her eczema was at its worst
Oral and topical steroids had no effect on Holly’s skin

Holly said: “I struggled to get out of bed in the morning, my skin oozed fluid all over the bed sheets, I was flaking, and my skin felt hot to touch.

“I got an appointment with my childhood GP and he prescribed me oral steroids, antibiotics and more Eumovate.

“Thankfully this was enough to calm my skin down in time for graduation.”

However, by winter, more than 70 per cent of Holly’s body was covered in eczema.

By the start of 2018, oral and topical steroids had no effect on Holly’s skin, and she started trying new methods of healing, but nothing helped.

After hearing about TSW in February, Holly researched the condition before stopping all steroid use on April 19, 2018, after trying to taper down her usage for a month to no avail.

TSW dramatically resulted in Holly moving back in with her parents so she could be taken care of six weeks into her withdrawal.

She felt so desperate for something to help and at the end of June 2018 she discovered no moisture treatment (NMT), which helps the skin produce its own moisture.

Holly said: “Whilst reading the Eczema Diet book, I came across a term I’d never heard before. “That was TSW. I found horrifying images of people whose skin was unlike anything I’d seen before.

Holly’s face was flakey and swollen
Holly stopped using any kind of steroid in April 2018

“Initially I was in denial that TSW was what I had, I used steroids as the doctors instructed so I couldn’t be that addicted to them.

“I was wrong. I couldn’t possibly have been prepared for how bad my skin would get.”

Holly stopped using any kind of steroid in April 2018 and over the next month her skin deteriorated rapidly.

“I could no longer sleep at night due to night sweats and the constant itch that moved around my body”, Holly said.

“I shed vast layers of skin every night and my boyfriend had to hoover the flat every day, as well as the bed every time I slept in it.

Holly didn’t leave the house for months during topical steroid withdrawal
Widespread flaking and oozing skin was common during TSW

“Underneath the layers of the skin that were peeling off wasn’t new skin, it was raw, damaged skin that oozed a yellow liquid.

“I could hardly shower anymore due to the pain of the water jets and the towel.

“Eventually I had to move home with my parents in Gloucestershire as I couldn’t look after myself anymore and needed access to a bath.

“I was now red over 95 per cent of my body, my adrenal gland was messed up and not functioning properly due to its dependence on the synthetic hormones I’d been rubbing onto my skin.

Holly on the nineteenth day of her no moisture treatment (NMT)
Holly reduced showers to once or twice a week and reduced her water intake

“I was in an unbelievable amount of discomfort. I didn’t recognise the face in the mirror anymore and I didn’t leave the house for months.

“Eventually I came across the no moisture treatment which involves ceasing the use of any moisturiser, reducing showers to once or twice a week, moderate exercise, reduced water intake.”

After a few weeks, Holly’s skin improved, the redness went right down and her skin stopped oozing and many of her open wounds started healing.

By August she was well enough to move back to London and go back to her job.

Holly was eventually well enough to move back to London and go back to her job
Holly says her skin still flares every now and then

She said: “Since then my skin has been constantly healing.

“It still flares every now and then, but I just leave it alone and within days it’s back to normal.

“I no longer moisturise, and my skin is less dry than when I was moisturising. I stick to one or two cool showers a week and my skin is thanking me for it.”

Holly and four friends she’s made in the TSW community, have since started a campaign called Scratch That to raise awareness.

She said: “TSW isn’t currently recognised in the UK but there’s a massive online community of people suffering from this condition.

Holly has started a campaign called Scratch That to raise awareness

“There’s five of us, myself, Harriet, Louise, Hannah and Laurie who have created the campaign called Scratch That, with the aim of getting this condition the recognition it deserves.

“As a community we feel lost and unsupported so we’re hoping to change this.

“The aim is to campaign to get the prescription of topical steroids more controlled and to get topical steroid addiction diagnosed and treated properly.”

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