Hello my Zebras and Spoonies! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today I want to talk about my experience with Atopic Dermatitis as an installment in the “My Diagnosis” series. I know, it isn’t a Wednesday. But this is the last one in the series and I wanted to get it posted while there were spoons available to get that done! And yeah, this is the last post for this series. Not sure what I will do for the next series, but I’m sure that something will present it self. If you have any suggestions, throw them in the comments because I’d love to hear them!
Atopic dermatitis (AD) is the most common type of eczema. AD is caused by an over reactive immune system that leads to inflammation that damages the skin barrier. This causes the person to experience rashes, itching and dry skin. There is also a color change associated with this; redness in light skin and a purplish tone in dark skin. There is a high comorbidity rate between AD and asthma and food allergies. This makes sense as those are also conditions that are caused by an over reactive immune system.
AD normally begins in childhood, most often while a person is still an infant. And like other chronic illnesses, AD will have periods when the symptoms improve and periods when the symptoms are worse or are flaring. Also like most every other chronic illness there are things that will trigger the symptoms which can vary from person to person.
Itching is the hallmark of AD, with some data showing that more than 85% of people with the condition experience this distressing symptom every day. Sore or painful skin and poor sleep caused by itching are also common. People with AD can get rashes anywhere on the body that can ooze, weep fluid and bleed when scratched, making skin vulnerable to infection. Skin can become dry and discolored, and repeated scratching can cause thickening and hardening — a process called lichenification.
I am amongst those that experience itching on a daily basis. There are times that it is so severe that I cannot focus on anything else because I am so uncomfortable in my own skin. I am lucky because my case is in the mild category. This means that I can mostly control my symptoms by avoiding triggers. It is also essential that I have a good skin care program that I stick to or my skin will get bad quickly.
This means that I have to avoid most kinds of soaps. I use the CeraVe skin products as they are very friendly to my skin and don’t cause my skin to flare. I have to use particular brands of detergent and dryer sheets or my skin gets angry. My skin is always dry and because of this, I cannot wash it too frequently or it will become so dry that it will crack and peel. I only shower once a week. Any more then that and my skin is a wreck. Of course, most people are very judgmental about the showers, but that’s how it is.
The first place that I usually start breaking out into a rash is around my mouth and nose. The peri oral rash has gotten pretty bad; inflammation, redness and scaling flakes. And it is in a place that can’t easily be hidden, well until recently. Now that I am wearing a mask all the time, no one would see this kind of rash. It is pretty crappy because it leaves me feeling pretty self conscious all of the time. I know that people are wondering about the rash and occasionally I’ve had people out right ask me if I had something that was contagious.
When it comes to AD, I don’t think that people realize how awful the constant itching can be. There is nothing that makes it stop. Ever. And I also have a connective tissue disorder that makes my skin more fragile which means that I can cause my skin to tear when I’m scratching myself. I have to keep my nails dull because I will scratch myself in my sleep.
And the skin infections are awful. I frequently fight skin infections. This is partly because of the scratching causing open areas, but it is also just part of having AD. Research shows that some people with eczema, especially atopic dermatitis, have a mutation of the gene responsible for creating filaggrin. Filaggrin is a protein that helps our bodies maintain a healthy, protective barrier on the very top layer of the skin. Without enough filaggrin to build a strong skin barrier, moisture can escape and bacteria, viruses and yeast can enter. This is why many people with AD have very dry and infection-prone skin. I personally am constantly fighting off yeast infections on my skin.
Whenever you have an infection, it uses energy and resources that are in a finite supply. This means that there will be fewer spoons to deal with other things. This often means that when I have a yeast infection on my skin that I will be more tired then usual and will have less spoons then usual. Any time there is an additional demand on my body, there is a chance that it will trigger a flare of one of my chronic illnesses. That’s because keeping everything under control is a careful balance that requires spoons to be available to maintain said balance. It means that while the infection isn’t serious, it has wide reaching impacts on my health and well being.
AD also has an impact on my mental health. I constantly struggle with Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD) and when I feel that I am not looking my best, it is much more difficult to be confident in social situations. These means that having an AD rash, especially on a part of my body that I cannot easily cover up with clothing, will greatly effect how I engage with other people. When I have a rash on my face, I will spend most of the time I talk to someone wondering if they are staring at my rash. It feels like a giant elephant in the room to me.
Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!