Anyone with eczema will know how impossibly draining living with constant itching can be. Just recently I’ve had a mini flare-up and some pretty insane itching. It happens around this time of year, without fail, but I think also I tried to go cold turkey with the steroids.
I refused to give in, but as soon as I applied some my skin was instantly relieved and improved drastically over the next few days. It even improves on areas where I have not applied the steroids which worries me greatly and is the topic of a future blog about addiction to steroids.
If you have eczema, psoriasis or dermatitis you are not alone – over six million people in the UK are living with this life challenging condition.
The one thing we would all love to find the answer to…
How do you stop the itch, scratch, cycle?
I’ve written about this many times before. If you scratch the itch you continue the cycle of damage and when skin is healing it itches again and so we scratch. There is a very useful book called the Eczema Solution which examines our habit to scratch and looks at how we challenge this and actually reduce the times we scratch by using different techniques, avoiding triggers and being aware of where and when we itch and scratch most.
One of my recent diaries on the Food Matters website discussed this very subject. Don’t tell me to stop scratching…
It’s the most annoying thing anyone can say to someone with eczema. Because to be brutally honest, no, we can’t. Unless you’ve experienced it, the eczema itch is like nothing else and no one will ever get quite how brutal it is. It’s inside, it’s deep, deep in your skin and no amount of itching can ever get rid of it. Often the pain of damaged skin is preferable to that itch.
And no, it is nothing like an insect or mosquito bite! Alright!
This fascinating article From The Truth about Eczema sheds some light on why we itch in the first place and why it’s not so bad after all.
Read ‘Why your eczema itches and how to get relief for good’. It talks about the built in itch mechanism and how it is actually natural and impossible to ignore. Centuries ago the initial itch of a fly or insect on our skin would trigger an itch – resulting in the displacement of the offending insect, so the itch served a purpose and rid us of the annoying bug or plant that was touching us. It serves a purpose and helps prevent us being stung without our knowledge.
The other form of itching is caused by a reaction in the body when histamine is released. The hives and bumps that can be so itchy are begging to be scratched and itching is actually a good thing because it helped to disperse the thing the body was trying to dispel or fight. So when you have this kind of allergic reaction instead of cursing, remember that your body cannot help it. It is built this way to keep you safe… still annoying though isn’t it?
But how do you cope with the constant itch? A recent consultation with a group of experts, scientists and doctors as a patient expert really got me thinking. They asked me how often I itched, where I itched, how painful was it and how hard was it avoid itching. I realised as I was describing to them what eczema was like to live with that on some level I am always experiencing some kind of itch. The lower levels or itching can be ignored, or rather I have developed ways of avoiding scratching and causing too much damage.
Sometimes I don’t, at all, but there a few things that work for me. I will be compiling a list in a soon to be published blog post but it’s growing and growing so deserves its own blog.
For now, don’t beat yourself up about itching but instead examine when it happens, why and how you can limit any damage. It’s not something you can just do. Just stop. You can’t and you’ll never be truly free from eczema or itching if you are prone to it, but you CAN take charge, you absolutely can find out what triggers yours and you can manage it so that your life is not limited to any great extent.
But when you are itching, scratch it. Try to fight it, but if it’s altogether too impossible to just stop. If something is causing the itch it will never stop.
So in preparation for my next blog, how to fight the itch, keep your nails short and filed smooth, don’t wash too often, wear tight fitting clothes that don’t allow easy entry of questing fingers that want to scratch, moisturise, take salt baths, use natural cosmetics and skin care products, eat healthily and keep a food and mood diary. If a particular food is causing your itching you need to discover what it is. I will expand on all this a future blog…