It started with a persistentitch between two of my toes. I tried everything:tea tree oil, over-the-counter creams, moisturizers. But it just wouldn'tgo away. I was inthe final months of my post-graduate studies, and I couldn't wait to begin my career. I felt like I didn't have time to go see a doctorand even if I did, I would have felt embarrassed to get treatment for an itchy toe. It was annoying and frustrating, but I tried to ignore it.
But thenthe week before I was supposedto start a new job in a new city, a blister the size of my palm suddenly appeared on the ball of my foot. It quicklyspread from my big toe to the centerof my foot. I couldn'tget my shoe on, and it was agony to walk barefoot or in flip-flops. This time, I went to the doctor.
My general practitioner was baffled by the large blister that had appeared seemingly overnight. I was prescribed an antifungal, antibiotic, and steroid cream (I guess to cover all the bases) and the blister was drained. I was able to hobble out of the doctor's office and set about moving to London for my new job.
The thing is, the blisters came back, only worse. My feet wept from the lymph that was building up in them, and they started to spread, first across my toes then, across the bottom of my feet and finally like a rash up the sides of my feet and onto the top. I was in agony.
I had to find a new doctor in my new city very quickly and when I did quickly diagnosed a fungal infection. He prescribed me antifungal medication that was so strong and for so long, that I had to have blood checks to make sure my liver was still functioning properly. Unfortunately, the medication he gave me didnt work, and shockingly, my doctor tried to claim that I wasnt taking the medication properly, and that was the only reason my skin condition hadnt cleared up.
I begged the doctor for a referral to a dermatologist who might be able to do some tests or checks or anything. Grudgingly he agreed.
By this time I was struggling to get to work and had to use crutches to get to the train station every morning, due to the amount of pain the blisters caused me when I was when I was walking. I was learning to drive at the time and had to cancel lessons at short notice, as I would wake up with blisters that were just too painful for me to have been able to use the pedals in the gear stick car I was learning in.
I would wake up at night due to the incessant itching in my feet that never stopped. My skin was bleeding from my scratching, and the skin I didnt scratch would fall off in sodden layers as the blisters oozed fluid all over my feet. As you can imagine, I was pretty desperate by the time I finally saw a dermatologist at the local hospital.
Pompholyx eczema was what he diagnosed, tut tutting at way I had been given enough antifungal medication to kill an elephant as he put it. Pompholyx eczema is a rare form of eczema that causes the formation of fluid filled blisters on the hands and feet. It is normally an adult-onset form of the disease, most commonly being diagnosed in people in their early 20s with a history of childhood eczema. I filled all of those counts.
I was sent away with a new, super-potent prescription-only steroid cream and emollient to sooth my sore, cracked eczematous skin, and stern advice to follow a strict daily routine that involved me wrapping my feet in saran wrap after I had put on the steroid cream to help in sink in. Yes really.
Slowly my skin got better and I started to learn the various triggers for my condition. Stress and anxiety are the big two, so it is perhaps no surprise that I first got the condition at a time when I was sitting exams, job searching and getting ready to move to a new city. Caffeine is problematic, which isnt a surprise as it also causes acne-flare ups from time to time. Heat and anything that makes the skin on my feet sweaty and chaffing can also lead to me limping about for a couple of days.
Later investigation at a different hospital found that I am one of the many people with eczema who reacts to the presence of the bacteriumStaphylococcus Aureuson their skin, so I now manage my condition following some hygiene tips a dermatology nurse gave me, (such as washing my socks, sheets and towels on a hot wash each week) and it seems to be working well.
Today I have no visible signs of eczema on my feet and I dont use any medication except when I have a flare up. Though there is still some stress from the condition, such as worrying about a flare up happening at an important time, I am now much more confident in my ability to deal with my condition and heal my skin, which helps me take it all in my stride.
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