Issue #046 - Red Skin Syndrome
Welcome to May's edition of the Eczema Bulletin e-zine, and thank you for subscribing.
This is the 46th edition of the Eczema Bulletin. It will bring you articles and news about eczema, and also any updates to what-is-eczema.com. If you would like to add any suggestions for articles or news, or even add your own then I would love to hear from you.
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This month's Eczema Bulletin includes
- May's Featured Article – Red Skin Syndrome
- My favourite eczema news article
- Tip of the Month
- 5 Ways To.....have an eczema friendly shower
Red Skin Syndrome
Red Skin Syndrome (RSS) occurs for some people when topical steroid treatments are used, for example, in the treatment of eczema. It is also known by a few other names including Topical Steroid Addiction (TSA) and Topical Steroid Withdrawal (TSW).
It doesn't affect everyone who uses topical steroid treatments, although it is uncertain why it affects some people and not others.
Most sufferers have used a steroid cream or ointment to help treat and manage their eczema. Some sufferers may find that the symptoms of red skin syndrome develop while they are using topical steroid treatments.
While the topical steroids are still being used, the main symptoms include
- very red and inflamed skin
- extreme itchiness
- the skin feels like it is burning or stinging
While the symptoms of red skin syndrome are very similar to eczema, one of the best ways to start treating RRS is to stop using the steroid based creams
Once the treatments are stopped sufferers may develop more severe symptoms that may last for weeks or months, it is different for each person
- very red skin that can look like you're sunburnt
- the skin can become extremely flaky
- oozing skin
- feeling too hot or too cold
- the skin can become very thick
- hair loss
- insomnia and fatigue
- depression and anxiety
Before you stop using topical steroids it's a great idea to have a plan of how you're going to manage the symptoms.
Your first stop should be your doctor or dermatologist. If you've been using topical steroid treatments for a long time on a large area of your body then they may need to monitor your health to check for any complications.
They can help with advice about how to manage any itchiness and pain, how to prevent an infection developing. They can also share advice on sleeping and
anxiety and depression.
Any plan made will be individual to you as each sufferer has different symptoms at varying degrees over a different amount of time.
There are some things you can do yourself to help manage the symptoms
- Regularly use an emollient that is free from preservatives and perfumes. Patch test it before using as some sufferers find that they are unable to use any type of emollient after withdrawing from topical steroids
- You can try using a natural moisturiser. These include coconut oil, shea butter, hemp oil and manuka honey. Again, patch test before using
- Try a natural bath soak. Adding apple cider vinegar can help to prevent an infection developing, and adding oatmeal can help to relieve the intense itching
- Have a sponge bath. Some RSS sufferers find it extremely difficult to be in water, so having a bath can be painful. Having a sponge bath is a good alternative as you can gently pat your skin
with a soft flannel or sponge
- Wear loose fitting 100% cotton clothing
- Keep a check on your body temperature. Avoid getting too hot or cold
If the symptoms of red skin syndrome get severe it can cause you to get anxious, and even lead to depression. It is vital to get help as soon as you have any feelings of anxiety and depression. Speak to your doctor or think about finding yourself a therapist who can help you work through your feelings.
The best way to help yourself through this process is to find support. Finding others who are going through or have been through the withdrawal process can help you and them.
A great website I have found is ITSAN. I have written a brief article about Red Skin Syndrome, but to get a complete guide I'd recommend visiting this site. They also have a forum and details of support groups for anyone dealing with topical steroid withdrawal, and their
friends and family.
If you're going through the withdrawal process I hope that this article has helped in some way, and that you make a beeline to ITSAN's website. If your symptoms are severe it may feel that there is no end to it. Find the stories of people who have got through the worse and are on the other side. They bring hope and can be full of some great advice.
Eczema News Article
A few clinics in the Houston area have started using the Allergypro blood test.
This test is a more comfortable way to check if a child has any allergies. Instead of using a needle for a blood test or a scratch test, a finger prick is used. Just four drops of blood are taken and analysed.
Not only does this way of testing remove some of the fear that a child might experience, but it also tests for over 100 allergens, compared with the dozen allergens that other tests detect.
It will interesting to see if this is expanded to other areas as it sounds like a relatively painless and stress free way of finding out if your child has any allergies.
You can read more about it, here.
Tip Of The Month - Are Water Softeners Beneficial For Eczema?
There are differing opinions to if having a water softener can be beneficial for your eczema.
Simply put, a water softener works by using sodium minerals and swapping it with the calcium and magnesium in the hard water. The sodium is put into the water, which makes the water soft.
A study done at Nottingham University found that children living in a hard water area are over 50% more likely to suffer from eczema.
In the study they took over 300 children and put them into two groups. One of the groups had a water softener installed in their home. They were also told to continue with their normal eczema treatments. The second group were told to just use their normal treatments.
The results found that although there was no difference in the severity of eczema in both groups, the children who had a water softener installed consistently used less topical treatment to manage their eczema.
This may be because hard water can affect your
eczema for the following reasons:
- the minerals in the water are left on the skin after contact. So after a shower or bath, all of the minerals don't get rinsed off. This can cause dry, flaky skin, as the minerals absorb moisture from your skin
- the minerals also react with washing products. This causes soap scum to occur. The soap scum can left behind on clothes and bedding. Causing irritation when they come into contact with the skin
- hard water increases the need for more soap, washing powder and shampoo to be used. This is because soaps do not work as well with hard water. Using even more soap products is definitely not good for eczematous skin
The study above shows that having a water softener installed can reduce the amount of treatment needed, but by how much is not certain.
If you live in a very hard water area it may be worth trying one. You could start with changing your shower head to a water softening
head. You'll be able to see if there is any difference in your skin and hair, then decide if it's worth looking into further.
I live in a hard water area and I have never used a water softener. I have thought about getting one installed but my eczema hasn't been troublesome for a while. I have noticed though that my skin feels tighter and drier after having a shower, and also after doing the dishes and washing my hands.
Like a lot of people the cost is always something to consider. So I'm going to have a shop around to decide whether it is worth spending the money if it only makes a small difference.
If you use a water softener or live in a soft water area then I'd love to hear from you. Have you noticed any difference in your eczema, or in just how your skin and hair feels?