I was just like any normal child born to this world and growing looking forward to a bright future. The story of my eczema started unexpectedly as there’re no one to the best of my knowledge within and outside of my immediate and extended families with eczema. So how I got to have it, is a misery. Around 1999/2000 during my high school days, I noticed these rashes-like looking spots on my left arm. It was very hitching. The Hitching was such that scratching it feels good and painful but noticeably was the more I scratched the more it spread. Before long I noticed my right arm was replicating the rash-like pattern. It became a concern for me. I saw a quite number of doctors and consultants, the best they could do is prescribe drugs and skin medication creams. The interesting thing was that none of this medical practitioners never made mention of eczema. Probably they had no idea was the problem was then. Anyway, neither the drugs nor the creams solved the problem. Months passed and my situation wasn’t getting better rather worse as everything I used and applied had no effect. On a faithful morning, I walked into our sitting room and there was a program on the television called the Morning Express. There was a consultant invited on the show who discussed on the skin and he made mention of Atopic eczema, and as I listened to him, everything he said about eczema fitted my experience and that was the very first time I heard of the word eczema. The sad part for me after I watched the programme was when he said that the cause is unknown and it can only be managed. Thereafter I started researching on eczema but then access to information and internet was very limited in Nigeria. The mobile and the internet boom was still at it infancy. But as a desperate young man seeking solutions, I spent money going to the internet cafés, downloaded as much as I could lay my hands. By then more than half of my hands was covered with eczema and I can barely off my clothes in the public, so I had to wear a long shirt to cover my eczema shame. Much of the information I got could only help me to understand eczema and manage it. And so for the next 10 years, I was managing it. There were times it seems it was going and it just returned again. It was a game of hide and seek. During this period I ensured I avoided scratching, importantly was I avoided dryness which is a trigger factor for scratching. As I took these measures, it worked to a certain level but returned with a bigger explosion!!!. In between this 10 years period, I had the worst eczema when it showed up behind my two knees, it showed below my breast, abdomen, my neck regions, my right foot and upper right leg. It was hell broke loose, and psychologically traumatic for me. I just couldn’t fathom was the root cause of the sudden expansion and spread of the eczema. I must mention that I altered, adjusted my diets in effort to narrow down to the root cause, maybe it something internal from what I take was the problem and the closest I came was my protein intake especially beans but it wasn’t my protein intake. I was helpless and without any alternatives, I started to live with my ordeal and I came to accept it as part of me.
My Eczema from 2009 till Date
Eczema took a better part of me emotionally, psychologically and affected my social interaction. Has I worked to manage it, I also hide it under the clothes. It took some courage after a while in 2008 when I started to wear T-shirt. It wasn’t by choice then but by compulsion because I was doing the National Youth Service Corp and we had to wear T-shirts. It like life has a way of forcing me to face the shame I was running from. Thence, many people saw my hands, and those who either by curiosity or sheer courage asked what happened to me and so I used it to educated them on eczema. I was gradually getting to live, move and interact without fear but I still got those stared look occasionally. The eczema was distinctly dry black on my skin and because I am light skinned, made it more obvious. Sometimes it like you can see through the dried layer waiting to shed off and unleash a fresh eczema rash underneath.
The year 2009, October 30th, I arrived in the UK for my masters. I was focused on the main business…study. Within 3 months into the program without anything extraordinary except that it was a cold winter, I saw my skin started taking shape back to it normal form, I didn’t wanted to rejoice early because of previous similar experiences and I waited quietly expecting for another unsurprising return. And 3 months turned 6 months..no eczema and my eczema skin regions got better. It was a miracle unexplainable and unexpected. I tried to look at what changed or habits but nothing. I picked up many of the foods I stopped eating, no eczema. In a year, my eczema infected skin regions was back to normal. 10-year eczema cleared within a year. It got so better that it would be hard to believe I ever had it.
January 2011 – July 2011
In January, I returned back home to Nigeria. It was a great reunion and with a shocking look on everyone’s face who was aware of my skin problem, saw how everything had disappeared without a trace. A miracle?…yea…you are probably wrong!!!.
My eczema was like a wounded lion waiting to strike. Barely a month to my return, the eczema showed up again…and as usual my two arms. This time, I was lost to what to suspect.. The air, the water (both drinking and bathing), the foods, and the whole house. I was devastated and confused. The question ringing in my brain was “What am I reacting or allergic to”. I took every measures against the eczema and maybe probably one of the factors I mentioned above was the root cause but none worked as I also avoid scratching because it itched alot, and helplessly watched as the eczema took over. Six months on, July, I returned back to the UK, less than a month of returning, the eczema stopped. I began to wonder what was peculiar about these two different environments that one seem to favour the eczema and the other stopped it.
By October 2011, I had fully recovered and prepared to returned to Nigeria. This time I had prepared a list of do and don’t when I arrived home.
October 2011 – February 2012
Between this period I was extremely careful of what I eat, drink, bath, clothes, and importantly avoid excessive heat which I could say was the only difference between the UK and the Nigeria environment. My careful measures could only last me 21/2 months before the eczema show up again.
February 2012 – April 2014
This time I was in South Africa, just like my UK experience. The eczema went into hibernation, I cannot say disappeared or gone because I sensed that something external which I cannot explain triggers it. And for good 2 years of my time doing my doctorate research, there was no sign of eczema. April 2014, I visited Nigeria, just like anyone following would guess/suspect, the eczema woke up from hibernation and within 2-week, it appeared fresh on my skin, 2-weeks after, I returned back to South Africa and I was fine. This time I was suspecting the whole country in addition to the previously mentioned…Funny..yea
April 2014 – March 2015
I was ok till I visited Nigeria in March 2015 for 3 weeks, yea..I thought as much, I probably have Nigeria Eczema Syndrome (NES). It became more psychological that anytime I am in Nigeria I must have eczema. The eczema showed up and I can only bid my time to return back.
March 2015 – June 2016
As the trend follows, I returned back to SA completed my doctorate degree with no eczema (hibernating). By mid-year, I moved to the UK, now a family man. I have since travel to and through few countries with no incidence of eczema. Whilst in the UK, I had an experience in April 2016, I used a body spray and few days after the eczema showed up but it wasn’t much after I discontinued using the spray. By then, we have a four months old baby who suddenly developed skin rashes. I examined him and the pattern of his rashes is exactly like mine. I can’t but help suspects he caught the eczema bug. I thought deep within if my problem is rooted at the gene level. Probably I have a faulty gene somewhere. I had long suspected it but there wasn’t any way to test it out. I could only suspect something external. For the next 8-months plus, we watched our child battled his own skin rashes
June 2016 – till date
So I am back in Nigeria, and if you try guessing and you will be probably be right…the eczema is back. The first 6 months of my return was a welcome back eczema (NES). I have only been able to manage it now. I have tried medications and I had to share a skin medication cream prescription for my boy which seems to work fine for both of us.
The motivation for putting up this eczema chronicle was the recent research article by Nick et al which can be found here. My own take on the research is though, they experimented under a controlled experimental condition. Is their controlled variables apply to most or few of us living with eczema? I wish it could answer what is causing my suppose loss of filaggrin if it is actually the implicating factor to my eczema. I wish to know the epigenetic playing out in my body that is affecting the gene causing the eczema. I hope the next decade will provide concrete answers and our knowledge of stopping eczema is established. While I can only hope for a permanent solution, I desired this skin problem doesn’t manifest in the nearest future on my children and if it does manifest, hopefully a solution should be waiting for them.