The semester’s over here. Know how I can tell? The eczema* on my right hand, specifically my thumb, index, and middle finger has cleared up. Completely. It’s wonderful to be able to touch things again, to work, to hold hands, to give a massage, to shake hands without pain and without wondering if anyone’s grossed out.

*from Wikipedia:

Eczema is a form of dermatitis, or inflammation of the upper layers of the skin. The term eczema is broadly applied to a range of persistent or recurring skin rashes characterized by redness, skin edema, itching and dryness, with possible crusting, flaking, blistering, cracking, oozing or bleeding. Areas of temporary skin discoloration sometimes characterize healed lesions, though scarring is rare.

It was bad this semester, the last four months of my undergrad. I didn’t feel more stressed than usual but maybe I was. Compounded by the furnace running all winter. And not consuming enough water. I tested negative for a bunch of allergies although I discovered that the dishwashing brush that I use was making it worse. I’ve used one for a few years, since my last run in with eczema because getting my hand wet to do dishes left me cracked and bleeding. Turns out the grippy rubbery handle on the brush triggered a reaction, same with gripper pens. Now I wrap it with a dishcloth and it helps a lot.

I wrote an exam with a Papermate “flex grip” pen, all soft and anti-slip and again: cracked and bleeding right hand by the end. For my final I actually considered asking Special Needs if this would be enough to get me a computer in the special needs office. I didn’t ask though. Instead I found an old fashioned hard plastic pen by the time I needed it. Who would have thought?

My usual remedy of calendula cream did nothing this time. I went in for the stronger stuff. My nurse practitioner gave me some cortisone cream which I used for 2 weeks, no improvement. Then I saw a dermatologist who prescribed a stronger steroid cream for morning and an ointment for night. The ointment was unavailable but I used the cream twice a day for 2 weeks: no improvement. I went back again and she prescribed protopic which I’d read about and caused me some apprehension. Each of these treatments has long-term side effects: adrenal system for the steroids, cancer for the protopic. (These studies are readily available so I’m not going to quote them here. Anyone who wants to read more can use their favourite search engine. And yes I know we’re talking reeeeally long term use and in high quantities, but too much risk for me right now.)

I took the prescription but never got it filled. I wrote my exams and got several extra bottles of Aveeno fragrance free skin relief moisturizing lotions. I started using only Aveeno skin relief body wash for handwashing, showering, and shaving. I put one bottle of lotion at the sink, one by the washing machine, one by my bed, and one at the computer. I put it on All The Time. I’ve used mild and envrio friendly washing products for years but I made an extreme effort to stick to Aveeno this time. And I found a pair of gardening gloves that are cotton on the inside. It may be that the same thing that’s on the pens and on my dishwashing brush is also inside rubber gloves because rubber gloves have always made my hands burn. I’d rather take the extreme cracking from working barehanded than the burning that comes from rubber gloves.

Then exams were over. By the day after my last one, no more eczema. And now my hands are very very soft. Someone told me so.

Last time I had eczema I had another similar cure: my ex moved out. Within a week of him leaving, the eczema I’d had for 2 years was gone. Coincidence?

I got a small patch again yesterday from a long day of many kids (PA day here), lots of gardening and lots of dishes without covering the handle of the brush. It’s mostly gone already. I’ll need to come up with a way to manage my stress better before life gets crazy again. For now I’m off to knit at The Coffee Exchange with a bunch of Actiongirls. We’re planning some more radical cheerleading!

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