Eczema – The Rise and Fall of My Face

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Two months ago I woke up to a beautiful, sunny, snowy morning and immediately knew that the day was going to be absolutely, disgustingly horrible. I didn’t even have to look in the mirror to know that something was wrong. My face was so swollen I felt like a greedy hamster with its cheek pouches full of food. I could only open my eyes half way because my eyelids were swollen as well. My skin felt like a tight mask and it was covered in this hard crust that had formed on my cheeks and forehead. I had barely slept all night because I’d kept waking up to an itchy, burning, weepy face which I had desperately tried not to scratch.

I stumbled to the bathroom to evaluate the damage.

Jesus fucking Christ.

Imagine in your head the color of a fire truck. Now double – no – triple the intensity of that color. That was the exact color of my entire face. Even around my eyes. I could smear red eyeshadow around them and that would not be enough to describe how red they were that morning.

So at this point my head looks like a red balloon. My skin was burning and itching so bad that I wanted to just dig my nails into it and cry. I did this, but it didn’t help.

“Okay I think I might skip work today.”

I gently washed my face to remove the crusts and quickly applied moisturizer as my skin started to turn into a dry, stiff mask within seconds. What the hell did I do to deserve this?!

I sit down.

*Ppppwwhhhhhhh close your eyes Oona, breaaaaathe…*

*Breeeeaaathe…*

*Bre…* How can it be this motherfucking itchy??!??!

Diagnosis #1

Fast forward a couple of hours, I’m sitting at a doctor’s office with sloppy makeup somewhat covering one half of my face and my hair covering the other half.

I go meet the doctor, point at my face and tell her that I’m wearing makeup on one side of my face to cover enough of the hideousness to be able to step outside of my apartment. She looks at me in shock and tells me that I’ll have to go to the hospital where they can give me an IV of antibiotics and do some lab tests for cheaper (this is a private practice because I’m afraid to call my local healthcare center and here I can book the appointments online). She thinks this is a serious case of erysipelas (bacterial infection) that started from eczema. Okay, I’ll go to the hospital.

On the way there I look up erysipelas and while I understand why she might think it’s that, I’m doubting her diagnosis. I don’t have a fever or chills, my skin is burning but not painful, I don’t feel sick, and most of the redness didn’t appear suddenly but creeped up on me along with extreme dryness during the winter. I told my doctor all of this and did the same with the two very nice doctors I met at the hospital.

Diagnosis #2

“Erysipelas caused by eczema”, they said and sent me on my way with an electronic prescription for antibiotics (which the doctor ultimately forgot to submit to the system, and I had to call the hospital later that day to get someone else finish her job). No IV for this red balloon-faced girl, but they did take some blood tests which all came out perfectly normal.

I was instructed to go see another doctor in one week to check my progress. This time I went to the healthcare center despite my fear of making phone calls since they clearly don’t want me at the private practice (plus I had a feeling I’d have to make several trips as my face was not getting any better).

Diagnosis #3

Another very pleasant doctor, again quite shocked to see my swollen ball of a head.

“It’s been dry for months, and somehow it developed into this”, I said again.

“Nothing seems to help. I put on moisturizer or oil and in less than an hour it feels dry again.”

“Mmmmmmmm.” *he looks at my face quizzically* “Hmmmmmm… Yes, I think it’s a bacterial infection.”

They were sooooo focused on this erysipelas thing 🙂 I get a stronger antibiotic and off I go. He tells me to just use a regular moisturizer daily, no need for anything more than that. Obviously I can’t. I can’t fucking turn my head or open my mouth because my skin is so dry. And nights are the worst! Every morning I wake up with a yellow crust covering my dry desert face. The skin around my eyes looks like one of those crumbled pieces of paper someone’s tried to smooth out. I did not have these wrinkles before!

Red balloonPIN IT!

So I go all in. Vaseline, moisturizer, coconut oil, everything. One day I try one of those weird apple cider vinegar toner recipes and the next day all the dry skin peels off at once. What the actual fuck. Coincidence? Perhaps. But I was ecstatic. I continued with just the moisturizers and oils and went right back to being a desert face. I’d been taking the antibiotics 3 times a day and my skin was still swollen, red, weepy, dry, you name it.

I go to the doctor again after 2 weeks and he’s like what the heeeeeell, it should’ve taken care of the infection. Let’s give you a milder, topical antibiotic for another 2 weeks and see if that helps. Thanks, bye.

If my face was a desert before, add an alcohol-based topical medicine into the equation and it’s turned into a vacuum without a single molecule of water. I’m supposed to go back to the doctor to see the results but it’s not doing shit besides making me feel worse.

Trust yourself

Without consulting my doctor (or ever going back to see him), I quit my 3rd course of antibiotics. I’m definitely not telling anyone else to do the same but I was so tired of this whole thing. At this point I figured I’ll try the vinegar toner again and see if my skin peels like it did last time. I think it took a couple of days this time but it did peel, and I kept using the toner daily. I found a thicker moisturizer, which I started applying to my face very generously multiple times a day and before going to bed. No more water touching my skin when I take a shower.

And what do you know, my skin started to get better! The weeping stopped and the redness has decreased A LOT. It’s still dry as hell but definitely less than before. Yesterday I was very itchy, went a little crazy and scratched a lot, which made it look extremely red and inflamed again and my eyelids were a little swollen this morning. So I’d go as far as to say the whole thing was caused by my eczema all along. At that point it was so irritated that it would start weeping from the slightest touch, and I was basically rubbing my face in my sleep every night. Now I just need to keep my hands off of it or it gets worse again.

It still hasn’t healed but gentle skincare helps a lot, as well as not touching it, which is extremely hard for me because I’m a compulsive picker 🙁 However, I will continue to try my best and hopefully won’t get into such a desperate situation where I have to trust doctors’ opinions again, at least for a while.

I’d love to hear your eczema (or any other horrible) experiences. Then maybe I wouldn’t feel so bad about my own. So please leave a comment! 😀

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