Eczema struggles that sufferers wish others knew
Eczema is something which you might have heard a friend or family member mention before. Not to be mistaken for sensitive skin, allergies, or generic rashes, eczema – AKA atopic dermatitis – is a condition where your skin’s natural barrier is weaker than usual. It also affects the body’s ability to produce moisture and repair itself, and results in ezcema struggles such as itchy and painful flare-ups.
Despite the growing prevalence of eczema in Singapore, there are many hurtful misconceptions surrounding it. Sufferers know all too well that this can lead to the condition causing more than just physical pain, but emotional turmoil as well. Here’s a list of eczema struggles that sufferers wish you knew, so we can hopefully receive more empathy than judgement.
1. Being shunned by people who think eczema is contagious
You might have heard of the word “dermatitis” being associated with eczema before. To break that down for you, dermatitis is an overarching term for any condition that causes skin inflammation. So let’s set this straight: eczema is a skin condition, not an infection caused by a virus, bacteria, or fungus. That basically means that it can’t spread to others.
In short, you don’t have to avoid an eczema sufferer if you see that they’re scratching or if their skin looks red and inflamed. You can’t “catch” eczema from them just by being in close proximity.
2. Developing eczema at any point of life, not just from childhood
A common misconception that people have is that eczema only occurs in childhood or that it’s a condition which children can grow out of.
As shared by Dr Melissa Tan Wee Ping, senior consultant dermatologist at About Dermatology Clinic, the common types of eczema among babies are seborrheic eczema – which often manifests as yellowish scales on the scalp and occasionally the face, and atopic eczema – which tends to show up first on the baby’s face, before appearing on the limbs and rest of the body.
While it’s true that eczema is more common in kids, many adults suffer from it as well. In fact, symptoms can develop any time and it’s not uncommon for sufferers to find out about their condition only in adulthood.
The condition can be further exacerbated by irritants and allergens, as Dr Tan reveals. For instance, babies could suffer irritant contact eczema when saliva causes rashes on the cheeks, around the mouth, and on the neck. And during adolescence, teens with acne-prone skin may end up getting irritant contact dermatitis when they use topical acne facial products.
3. Seen as using eczema as an excuse to skip physical activities
As much as we would like to have fun in the sun, it ain’t as simple an affair for us. While sweat contains moisturising properties and helps to cool the skin in non-eczema sufferers, it causes uncontrollable itching in people with the condition – due to specific salts that irritate and dry out our skin.
Furthermore, in the case of Singapore’s hot weather, we can’t just turn on the air-conditioning as a quick fix. Being in air-conditioned environments dries out and tightens the skin which might lead to cracked and open wounds.
The nature of our condition also makes it difficult for us to engage in certain activities such as swimming, due to the chlorine and salt in the water that irritates our skin. Plus, you can only imagine the excruciating pain that comes with letting our open wounds come into contact with water. A fun beach outing or hitting up a water park? We’ll have to take a rain check.
4. Being told by some people that eczema is just “a little rash”
Eczema affects our lives more than you think. Aside from being more prone to infections, cuts and cracks in our skin, and wounds that take ages to heal, it also results in challenges like a lack of sleep during flare-ups – and lots of pain in our day-to-day life.
A fun activity – like bouldering – to normal people might be detrimental to someone with eczema.
The itching is not the regular type of itching most people are used to either. Think of it as a physiological short-circuit where multiple pathways in the skin are malfunctioning, and sending different signals to the brain which results in severe itch.
Ask the people around you who suffer from eczema, and they might even tell you that “itch attacks” are so severe that it can make them feel like they’ve been possessed, and are physically unable to stop scratching hard even when they see blood, and they know that it’s causing damage which will take weeks to undo.
5. Being the subject of judgement & unwanted advice
Living with eczema means constantly having people side-eye your affected areas, or sometimes straight-up staring you down. This can be a mixed bag of concern, judgement, and even disgust. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for strangers to make remarks about our condition, which leaves us feeling extra self-conscious about our “imperfect” appearance.
While we understand that unsolicited advice comes from a place of care and concern, every eczema sufferer’s condition actually varies widely – from their triggers and severity of symptoms, to what types of treatment and lifestyle changes might be suitable for their genetic makeup. This means that general advice is not that helpful, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of approach.
As if we’re not already dealing with enough, walking around with eczema also makes us vulnerable to scammers who like to advertise different creams, supplements, and even make-believe products of superstition which they claim can cure or make our condition “disappear”. We’ll pass on the magic crystals, thanks.
6. Having to cancel hangouts, which can affects friendships
One thing about eczema is that the nature of our condition is very unpredictable. We cannot tell you when we’re going to have a flare-up next. Heck, we don’t even know it ourselves, enough to be able to prevent it. All we can do is try our best to avoid triggers. However, even then, it’s beyond our control if our condition suddenly flares up.
Flare-ups mean our skin gets inflamed and damaged from scratching, leading to open wounds that put us at risk of an infection. Carrying out day-to-day activities is difficult enough, let alone hanging out and trying not to be a Debbie Downer when you’re writhing with pain.
Something as simple as going to the movies or a friend’s place to chill can be downright anxiety-inducing, as we don’t want to leave a trail of skin flakes caused by itching or stain your furniture with blood or fluid from our broken skin. But with every outing cancelled or invitation declined, we also agonise over the possibility of this harming our social relationships.
7. As much as we want to be freed from it, there’s no cure for eczema
Telling someone with eczema not to scratch gives the same vibes as telling any other person with a disease or health condition to just not be sick, or not to show symptoms. Refraining from scratching cannot “cure” or eliminate our eczema, and that uncontrollable itch – which some sufferers even describe as a burning, prickling sensation – will bubble to the surface eventually.
As Dr Lee Hwee Chyen, consultant dermatologist at Epi Dermatology & Laser Specialist Clinic puts it, there is unfortunately no permanent cure for eczema. It is known to be chronic in nature and may recur at any point in life.
When it comes to miracle cures or advice in general, trust us when we say we’ve tried everything, and we’ve heard it all. Dermatology treatments cost a bomb, and we’ve gone through every “eczema tip” in the book. Avoiding seafood? Bathing in cold water only? Sinking hundreds into appliances like humidifiers and air purifiers? Been there, done that.
While there isn’t a cure for eczema just yet, the best we can do is to keep the condition stabilised, and minimise symptoms such as itching and inflammation.
Dr Lee recommends a multi-pronged approach, involving topical medications, regular moisturising, taking care to avoid potential triggers and irritants, and consulting a dermatologist to explore treatment options. This would include a combination of strategies and prescription treatment for both maintenance and prevention, as well as treatment for any flare-ups.
Making life with eczema a little better with AweMed
One of the go-to ways for eczema sufferers to keep their condition under control is to use moisturisers and creams diligently. Because this condition renders our bodies incapable of producing moisture in the skin as normal human bodies should, we’ve got to replenish that somehow.
That said, another eczema struggle is that moisturisers can leave a niam niam feeling on the skin, which makes the itch even worse. With that in mind, AweMed’s Repair + Daily Moisturiser ($49.46 for 80ml, $62.58 for 200ml) is specifically created for hot climates like Singapore’s.
The formula has been tested to be light-textured, non-sticky, and with fast absorption. It is also designed with a unique 3-in-1 approach that targets the 3 main symptoms of eczema – itching, dryness, and inflammation.
Apart from keeping the skin moisturised, it helps soothe common eczema struggles by enhancing the skin’s natural barrier, and reducing the physical symptom of itching. Over prolonged use, your skin should be extra soothed, and develop a stronger level of protection from future inflammation.
Apart from the moisturiser, AweMed also has a Itch Rescue Spray ($28.56) for you to spritz on-the-go should you feel an itch attack coming on. It’s designed to relieve itch and provide a soothing, cooling sensation – perfect for eczema sufferers who scratch up a storm whenever they’re feeling warm and sweaty.
L-R: Itch Rescue Spray, Lipid+ Gentle Wash.
For those whose eczema is exacerbated by harsh soaps that dry out the skin and lead to post-shower scratching every day, give the AweMed Lipid+ Gentle Wash ($54.50) a try. As the name suggests, the gentle foaming formulation contains lipids to replenish your body’s loss of skin lipids – AKA the natural fats which make up moisture.
You’ll be able to find the full range of AweMed products on online platforms such as Shopee and Lazada, or via their official website. As a bonus treat for our readers, score 5% off AweMed products from their website or Shopee platform with the promo code <AWEMEDTSL>, applicable from now till 31st January 2024.
From a fellow sufferer who has gone on a long journey of eczema struggles and product trials, give these items a go. They were made with the expert partnership of local dermatologists and paediatricians, and have received their seal of approval.
This post was brought to you by OrendaPharma.
Photography by Shawn Low.
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