Today is the day I have decided to take you along the very difficult journey I have had in somewhat recent years with my skin. Growing up, I fortunately had never suffered with eczema, psoriasis or anything of the sort. I had only really experienced mild acne on my face. This all changed in March 2016. My life slowly started to flip upside down when it came to my skin. The worst part is, I had no idea what was causing it. In this blog post, I will talk you through (alongside unpleasant images) the gradual deterioration of my skin. The scary part is, this could in fact happen to anyone.
You may think I am exaggerating here. In all honestly, if you read on, you may even start to think I have not been as dramatic as I could have been. If you have seen my Instagram (@__jdx), you may have already come across this post regarding my skin. My intention with this blog is to make you aware of what I went through and hopefully to help others in this position. I really was left in the dark and I would never want others to go through what I did.
Disclaimer: please look away if squeamish!
First Signs of Problems
In March 2016, during my placement year in London, I first noticed a small change in my skin. I started to develop this round, rough patch of skin on my left leg’s lower shin. In all honesty, I really did not think much of it at all and it did not really bother me too much. However, in May 2016, I then developed another patch on my left leg and one on my right followed shortly after. I still was not very alarmed and wrongly assumed it may have been due to living in a flat that was quite damp.
Questions only really sprung to mind when my cousin noticed the patches whilst on holiday in Ibiza. Given the round shapes of these thick, layered patches she questioned whether I had psoriasis. Naively I assumed this was not the case and still proceeded to ignore the signs.
The Moment of No Return
It is fair to say up until August 2016, I was fairly unfazed by these skin changes even with a new patch appearing on my arm. See the image below.
That was until all hell seemed to break loose on my legs in September 2016. 2016 was a great year, full of many holidays and it was right before my flight to Dublin where things took a turn. I noticed many small bumps all over my legs when showering, see the video below. My instincts and mum said to go to the nearest Pharmacy and get checked out immediately. The pharmacist believed I may have had an allergic reaction to something and gave me anti-histamines. Luckily this was not catastrophic and I could still go to Dublin!
When I did not really expect things to get much worse, they most definitely did. It was during my final freshers week at University where my skin did not want to cooperate. In all honesty, I probably did aggravate my skin as I recall trying to shave (big mistake). I had also been to see the doctor who had prescribed antibiotics with the thought it may have been a folliculitis. I am pretty sure I was told to exfoliate which really was the moment of no return.
From this point on, my skin was never the same. All these bumps had ripped open and were bleeding. What was worse was that these small bumps actually spread all over my arms as well, not just my legs. My skin started to ooze daily. I would have to wear long sleeve clothing which would get stuck to this infection, if I could even call it that. I would randomly touch my sleeve to find it wet/weeping; this was either with blood or whatever this oozing substance was. My skin became extremely itchy and very difficult to deal with. Something really needed to change.
Countless doctors appointments, antibiotics, creams, blood tests for perhaps a staph infection and bandages later, I realised the cure would not be as simple as I had thought it may have been. It got so bad I even checked for meningitis. Seeing many shocked faces of doctors was very disheartening. Fortunately my dad was able to move things forward by getting me seen by a private doctor.
My Skin Diagnosis
At this point, I did not have much hope that there would be a miraculous cure for whatever was going on with me. However, this private doctor was able to give me hope almost instantly. As soon as I showed him the skin on my legs he was very quick to say he knew exactly what was going on with me. In November 2016 I was diagnosed with disseminated secondary eczema. This is said to be eczema that is essentially triggered by a skin allergy. I had a skin biopsy shortly after to confirm this.
In the meantime, I was put on a course of oral steroids for six weeks. This of course will be of no surprise to anyone given how strong and lean I am (I wish). It started off as six tablets a day and weekly eventually reduced to one. These steroids definitely did give my skin a boost to start healing but what I noticed was that these bumps were still coming back and reappearing. After the six week course was up, I was given steroid creams to use if I needed. I was told given I had asthma as a child, I was at risk of this eczema being for life.
With these oral steroids and creams, the problem was not cured but was in fact suppressed. It definitely had not gone away. The skin biopsy was said to confirm I did have disseminated secondary eczema but I was still suspicious. What heightened these suspicions was where the same doctor gave me a patch test. I put on the most common skin allergies on my skin for days to see if there was a reaction but nothing came back. My initial thoughts was an old bubble bath solution may have caused the reaction but there was no signs of any allergy.
Next Steps to Finding a Cure for my Skin
The flare ups were constant and these got worse with alcohol. This was very much not ideal during my final year of university but I do think on the whole, I dealt with it quite well. However, I was not ready to give up with my skin and accept this diagnosis just yet. Join my journey to find out how I went from the above to my skin thankfully completely healing. Part 2 can be found here.