"I wasn't dirty; I just had eczema."
"Everything I and many others thought we knew about eczema (atopic dermatitis) was debunked with a single google search. I first noticed my skin was not like everyone else’s when I was eight."
A teacher told Aisha, in hushed tones, that she had eczema on the skin behind her ears and around her nose. She immediately thought she got it from being dirty or from someone in my class, so when she got home, she washed it with medicated soap rigorously.
Her next brush with the skin condition was at 16; it appeared on her arms, face, and back when she was 16, and again she assumed she got it from a dirty towel.
"I remembered my father using a sulfur ointment to clear it when I was eight, so I bought the cream and began using it every time it appeared on my skin."
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a disorder that results in dry, rough, itchy skin. It is just one of many different dermatitis kinds. Eczema (the "glue" of the skin) damages the skin barrier, and the lack of protection makes the skin more sensitive, more prone to infection, and drier.
Up to 15 million Americans suffer from eczema. Eczema is common among infants; 10 to 20 per cent will develop it. A 2021 study said it affected up to 2.4 per cent of the global population, and the rest of your body is not harmed by eczema or other dermatitis.
About half of the people with the skin condition outgrow it, or their skin improves as they age. Both men and women are equally affected by eczema, which is more prevalent in those with a personal or family history of asthma, environmental allergies, or food allergies. Combining immune system activity, genetics, and environmental factors can result in eczema stress and triggers—dry skin. The body is not harmed by eczema.
Your skin is not dirty or sick, and it is not communicable, so this does not imply that it is.
According to WebMD, some remedies can assist. It usually manifests as rough skin, red rashes or bumps on the skin. The most typical signs of eczema include scaly, leathery areas of skin, crusting skin, and swelling.
While the condition is not fatal, it is definitely an inconvenience. Early this year, Aisha said she spent a week without sleep, reading through articles on the internet, trying to understand why eczema in her body had spread all over her back and my stomach.
In January, she started with small amounts of sulfur ointment, and the underdose wasn't working. A pharmacist recommended using Epiderm ointment and her skin cleared after a few weeks. But later on, it became so bad she could only wear clothes with high necks when she left the house.
"My mother suggested using some herbs to clear it, and I was skeptical. I admit my skepticism came from not paying much attention when she mentioned it. While I scoured for the causes of eczema, she came into my room to remind me to use the herbal mix she had bought for me. Like many mothers, she guilt-tripped me—complaining that I had refused to use it and it was expensive," Aisha tells me.
She then googled the name of the herbal mix and found sources that said it was effective in treating eczema permanently. But others said it was dangerous to use and to visit a dermatologist to find suitable remedies. She was too broke to consult a dermatologist, so she called the only other doctor she knew, her father.
"In a trembling voice, I told him that the eczema had refused to clear off and that I didn't know what to do. He recommended a topical steroid, and I said to him that the last time I took the tablets, they gave me ghastly stretch marks on my upper arms. He dismissed my worries, saying the stretch marks were genetic and I had inherited it from him," she said.
In an attempt to reassure her, he told her he had it when he was young, and it would clear off as she got older and to use miconazole ointment or sulfur ointment for a specific amount of time in the meantime.
By the following day, Aisha reevaluated her perception of the skin disease. She was a clean person, and the appearance of eczema made me even cleaner. She washed bed sheets and towels weekly and never allowed anyone to put their feet on her bed. She also hadn't passed it to any of her siblings, even though they constantly stayed on her bed and used her towels.
"The myths about eczema I had believed my whole life was debunked with a single google search (and a little doctor/father reassurance)," she said.
Aisha never thought to investigate and search for the cause and treatment of the disease till that day. She recalls being angry at everyone who insinuated that a lack of proper hygiene caused the skin disease.
"I spent years suffering from the shame of living with an evident skin disease, thinking it was something I did that caused it."