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Lizzie

Age at interview: 19
Brief Outline: (Audio or text only clips) Lizzie has had eczema all her life. Her skin has improved in recent years but eczema still affects her in various ways. She finds that having eczema on her hands, and using steroid creams on this part of her body, can be particularly difficult.
Background: Lizzie is 19 years old and an undergraduate University student. She lives with her parents outside of term times. Her ethnicity is White British.

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Lizzie has had eczema all her life. Her skin has improved since she was 17, becoming less severe and affecting fewer parts of her body. Some of the locations of eczema on her body have been very difficult to cope with and to treat with moisturisers and steroid creams. For example, Lizzie finds that creams on her hands are quickly rubbed or washed off and she worries about transferring steroids to food or touching sensitive areas like her eyes. She is cautious about strong steroids, so she uses these very sparingly and usually after applying a moisturiser. Lizzie’s eczema is triggered by stress, some kinds of food ingredients such as a lot of fruit juices, and the changing seasons/weather.

Lizzie has been seeing doctors about her skin for as long as she can remember. She saw a specialist once but did not find this a helpful appointment. Lizzie has tried many different treatments and finds that the prescribed products from the GP are usually better those bought in shops or ordered online. She has also taken antibiotics when her eczema has become infected. Lizzie’s university offered some practical help with her eczema but she has not felt able to take up the offers. Lizzie also applied for a water filter through her council but the request was rejected on the basis that her eczema was not severe enough to warrant it. However, Lizzie notices the difference that water quality makes to her eczema: she has a water filter at her family home and finds that her skin becomes more irritated when she goes back to university.

Whilst the main issue with her eczema when she was younger was self-consciousness, she finds that she is more bothered by it hindering practical tasks. This is especially the case for activities involving her hands as the skin here can be very sore and her fingers sometimes swell up. For example, washing-up is often painful and wearing rubber gloves can make it worse by both drying her skin out and making it more clammy. Lizzie sometimes has to be careful about choosing which clothes to wear, as itchy material or tight fit can make her eczema worse. She finds that long sleeves can help limit scratching and has noticed that her skin can become sore during summer if it’s rubs without the buffer of clothes.

Lizzie now feels more accepting of her eczema as “part of who I am,” something which has been easier since her skin condition became milder. She appreciates the support she has received from her friends and family, and she has never felt the need to seek more help beyond this. Lizzie says that she has not done much research about eczema before because she doesn’t think it would be that helpful to her, but she suggests that other young people might benefit from asking their doctors about causes as well as treatments. She encourages young people to keep a good routine of applying creams and adds that, although it can be annoying, it will become quicker to do with time.
 

As she has got older, Lizzie’s eczema became milder in terms of symptoms and the areas of the body affected.

As she has got older, Lizzie’s eczema became milder in terms of symptoms and the areas of the body affected.

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I mean like over the long run it was really, really bad when I was a child. So, like when I was below six years old it was really, really bad. And it's slowly gotten better as I've like become 20. But like yeah particularly between like six and 14, 15 years old it was bad and I did have these massive flare-ups, and it would be constantly bad, like nothing I could do to get rid of it. And now it's more minor than that, I still have places where it comes up a lot frequently, and sometimes there are pieces of eczema which are constantly there but it's not as bad as it was. Like it's not as itchy, it's not as red, it doesn’t flare-up as often, but there still are times when I do have these flare-ups which are particularly bad. Mainly I used to have it pretty much all over my body, but now it's become more localised. But what I haven’t, I never had eczema on my hands until I turned about 16 or 17 years old, so that’s more of a recent thing. But yeah, I used to have it on my shins and on my feet and my hair and on my face, but that has definitely improved cos now it's more just legs, arms and hands basically.
 

Lizzie finds that the skin rubs together more when she wears summer clothes, which can aggravate her eczema.

Lizzie finds that the skin rubs together more when she wears summer clothes, which can aggravate her eczema.

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Sometimes like it can be hard even when you're walking with like shorts on cos your like thighs can touch each other and brush against each other, which you don’t get with clothes, which can be like really, really sore in the inner thighs and stuff. Or like even when you're carrying a bag and you're holding onto the bag so you're elbows are like closed, and it can get really sweaty, which again you don’t get in the winter because you’ve got your clothes in between.
 

Lizzie has seen doctors (mostly GPs) many times for her eczema.

Lizzie has seen doctors (mostly GPs) many times for her eczema.

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I've probably seen them all my life, even in the beginning. But yeah I've been visiting a doctor for my eczema forever so, probably the first time I saw them, and I remember, is around like six years old maybe. But it's always been the same, like just getting prescriptions and like prescriptions over and over again, just reapplying for the same prescriptions all the time. So it's like a second way of life; you just end up, you know, cream is just part of your daily routine.
 

Lizzie talks about the different body parts where she’s had infections.

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Lizzie talks about the different body parts where she’s had infections.

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I've had quite a few infections in my eczema, like round my eyes and my finger; like my thumb at the moment’s swollen and it's been swollen for maybe four months now and like nothing's worked on it. But with infections it can be a lot nastier than general eczema. So, and they, that can be more painful than usual, like especially round the eyes you can't – sometimes I can't open my eyes well enough because like the eczema's kind of come round, or the whole eyelid and it just makes it very painful. But that usually can clear up within a week when you're giving a particular like, maybe sometimes an antibiotic and a lot of cream as well.
 

Lizzie’s university offers support with exams, though it’s hard for her to know in advance when it’s necessary.

Lizzie’s university offers support with exams, though it’s hard for her to know in advance when it’s necessary.

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Does eczema ever affect your studies at all?

Yeah, sometimes I can't write. But usually I do a lot of typing on the laptop anyway so that hasn’t really had a problem. And I always , because I've got, I'm classed as having a disability through the college, they have told the exam schools and stuff, so they always email me saying, “Do you need compensation for your exams, like for writing and stuff?” And obviously it's like a good few months in advance so I'm never going to be able to tell cos it's so, you know, variable eczema, it's not like a long term thing that just, it’s, for me, it's not a complete flare-up for months and months on end, it just changes day-to-day. So, you can never really say in advance, but it's nice to have the option there for them, you know to give me like, “Do you want extended time; do you want to write on a laptop?” that kind of thing.

So is that something that you, unless you were nearer the time you wouldn’t be able to tell them whether you do need a certain-?

Yeah basically cos they want to know like a month or two months-, which is fair enough because, you know, they need to set things out. But to be honest like I'd have to tell them maybe the day before like, and that’s not really workable so yeah.
 

Lizzie talks about the importance of moisturising the skin.

Lizzie talks about the importance of moisturising the skin.

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when I was 13 or 14 I would hate having to like stick cream on every single day, it was so laborious and really tedious. But now it's just like a routine; you can do it in two minutes flat, you know. Once you do it, you just pick it up so quickly. So, make sure you're like applying what your doctor's given you, and like also talk to your doctor about it, like actually get to know – like I don’t know what causes it – actually try and understand what eczema is about and like what you can do to tackle it in the long run, and talk about which creams might work best for you, and maybe even like talking to people in shops saying, I've found like when I've gone into like Lush for my soaps saying like, “I've got eczema, is there anything that you particularly recommend?” and the things they’ve given me have worked really, really well. So, you know, just make sure, when you're buying products that you're going to use on your skin, talk to other people who are in the shop who know about it who can help you out. And you know like don’t be self-conscious about it. I mean yeah, it can impair you but it's just part of who you are, and like when you accept that you will get on a lot easier with the fact that you have eczema, so don’t be self-conscious about it.
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