25-year-old Sarah from Cheshire has suffered from severe eczema her whole life. The condition has become all-consuming and has affected not only her confidence, but her social life and career. Having exhausted a range of creams, treatments, and medications she had hit rock bottom. However, after being approved for a revolutionary new drug, she is feeling more positive in her own skin and for her future.
When did your allergy start?
I’ve had eczema since birth; however, it eased for a short period of time during childhood before returning with a vengeance in my late teens. I found with every year that I got older the flare-ups were intensifying. It covered every patch of skin and it honestly felt like it was taking over my life.
What were your triggers?
The usual offenders – dust, sweat, perfumed products and the biggest one for me, stress. It was a vicious cycle – the more I worried about my skin, the worse it would get.
When I was 22, I had started my dream job working with animals, which I was forced to give up due to the dog dander triggering my skin to flare up every day. That was a real low point for me.
How did it make you feel?
I wasn’t living the life of a normal 22-year-old. I was un-employed and spent most of my time at home, bathing, lathering myself in cream and avoiding mirrors. I couldn’t wear nice clothes, go out in the sun or socialise with friends. My face would flare up so badly it would look like burns and my hair started falling out. I felt like a monster.
Sleeping was particularly difficult, I found I was waking up almost every hour forcing myself not to scratch. I even used to wear socks over my hands to stop myself from scratching in my sleep.
Did you find any treatments to be successful?
After many visits to the dermatologist I had tried and tested every possible steroid cream. Initially they would work, and I thought I had found my solution, but the flare ups would soon creep back. I had tried UV light treatment, many courses of steroids and different types of immune suppressant medication which meant my bloods were checked routinely every two weeks. After 8 months I was taken off the immune suppressants as my liver count was too high and I was beginning to suffer long term side effects.
What was your turning point?
At one point 85% of my body was covered in eczema and I had been admitted for an urgent hospital appointment. During this I was approved for a revolutionary new medication – Dupixent, which works to control the underlying inflammation.
I have been on the injection for 18 months now and although my skin isn’t perfect it has changed my quality of life immensely, I no longer hide my face in embarrassment or shame. I can sleep perfectly through the night with no disturbances or the desire to scratch. I feel like a new person.
What other lifestyle changes have you had to make?
I have always been really careful with the products that come into contact with my skin. Using sensitive products without all the usual chemicals and perfumes have helped minimise my flare-ups.
Do you think skin conditions like eczema are spoken about enough?
Not at all. I don’t think they are spoken about enough or taken seriously as a disease. I know first-hand how it can take over every aspect of your life and it is something I’m still trying to come to terms with. I never used to be comfortable talking about my skin, but now I feel like I need to speak up. We need to talk and educate people – if I can help even one person who is suffering, it’s worth it.
How do you stay positive through it all?
I’ve always tried to remain positive – which has been really difficult at times. I have always reminded myself of the blessings in life. I’m healthy and happy and learning more about this condition every day.
What’s next for you?
I no longer have to organise my life around my skin. I can wake up in the morning without worrying what my face will look like and can even go on holiday in the sun and enjoy myself. I’m still careful about what products I use on my clothing and bedding, using Surcare has made a huge difference. I am proud of how far I’ve come and everything it’s taught me. I honestly love who I am and I’m excited for a more positive and confident future.