(Text only clips) Maham has had eczema since she was a baby. She notes that maintaining a routine and communicating effectively with healthcare professionals is crucial in eczema management.
Maham has had eczema since infancy. Her first major flare-up was during her GCSEs due to stress. She experienced another big flare-up during her second year at university. She thinks this was down to an increase in stress when she switched degrees, living in dusty student accommodation, an unhealthy diet and a lack of sunlight whilst studying for exams. Maham finds that university-related stress is often internalised in contrast to her experiences of work where you can leave your stress at the office at the end of the day. Other triggers for Maham’s eczema include coffee and some brands of chocolate. She also avoids using cheap showergels and make-up, opting instead for high quality cosmetics. She wears cotton clothes because synthetic materials irritate her skin. Although eczema has not hindered Maham’s social life, it has impacted on her energy levels so that it is difficult to study or do household chores.
Maham thinks that treating eczema is often fire fighting, whereby there are attempts to treat the symptoms without really addressing the causes or triggers. In addition to a prescribed moisturiser, she uses steroids to tackle inflammation. However, she worries about skin thinning and accidental contact with her eyes when using steroid creams. She uses a calamine lotion to cool her skin and reduce itchiness. She also takes a daily antihistamine tablet and increases the dose when she experiences a flare-up. However, she finds that the increased intake of medications can make her sleepy during the daytimes. Maham uses a pillbox to organise and remind her to take the medication, a strategy that has worked well for her. She says that support from her family and friends have helped her maintain her eczema treatment routine.
Maham found that specialist skin care was more accessible in Pakistan than in the UK. Her GPs in the UK were reluctant to give her a dermatology referral and, as a result, Maham paid to see a private dermatologist. It difficult for her to build a relationship with an individual GP because she had to switch GPs based on their availability. She also found that GPs were often pressed for time which meant they were unable to answer all of her questions. Maham found that her appointment with the private dermatologist was much more informative because they had the time discuss possible triggers and all available treatment options. She suggests that GPs are useful in emergency situations when treatment is needed quickly, such as when eczema becomes infected, but that seeing a specialist will be more suitable for long-term eczema management.
Maham’s advice to young people with eczema is to maintain a routine of moisturising often and taking medicine as it is prescribed. She suggests keeping a diary to help identify food triggers and discover which treatments are effective. Maham also suggests booking a longer timeslot when making a GP appointment and writing down a list of questions beforehand. Her advice to healthcare professionals treating young people with eczema is to recognise the effect of skin conditions on the whole of a person’s life.