I won’t let eczema triumph
Anne Kittony was only four years old when she was diagnosed with mild eczema, a skin inflammation characterised by itching and crusting.
The itchy rash in eczema is particularly noticeable on the scalp, neck, elbows and behind the knees.
There is redness, scaling, darkening of the skin and itching, and is often confused for burn trauma.
In Anne’s case, the disease first manifested on her joints but as she grew older, it became severe, spreading to other body parts including her face and hands.
Eczema has no cure but can only be managed, thus Anne, now 24, has been on medication since then.
“The medicine makes feel me tired and I always have to dress appropriately since extreme weather conditions really affect me. I also have to be careful around sharp edges because my skin thins and I can easily get cuts,” said the university student.
There are different types of eczema and their common triggers are allergies. It’s more common in children and teenagers.
Its causes are unknown but presumed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
“For me it’s the drastic weather changes and food spices that trigger it. My skin cannot stand the hot and cold weather and I rarely eat in restaurants unless I make a special order,” said Anne.
Growing up with the disease exposed her to different kinds of people; from a supporting family and friends to those who kept their distance.
The latter greatly lowered her self esteem to the extent that she always wore trousers and long sleeved tops to hide her status.
To make matters worse, when she joined high school, she also developed alopecia, a condition whereby one loses hair. Anne lost hers on the front of her head.
“High school was the most difficult period for me; some experiences really singled me out. Girls can be mean plus, I was always in the hospital or at the school’s clinic because the weather there really affected me. There were many students with special needs for the school to focus on one and leave out the others. My mum had to make special requests such as being provided with hot water for bathing,” said Ann who was in a girls’ school.
According to her, most students were unaware of the disease and always asked her questions, some of them negative. With time she learnt how to cope with it.
“I remember in 2007 when I was in third form, the principal wanted us to comb our hair in a certain style and here I was with the disease. I defied her and instead combed it differently to hide my baldness,” she added.
Going to the salon has always been dreadful because her skin would be tender or irritated, and the heat from the dryers would be painful and at times leave her with infections on her scalp.
In managing eczema, patients are advised to bath at least twice a day aside from using mild body products to prevent a skin reaction.
Others include change of diet and testing for allergies that can trigger eczema. Use moisturisers to prevent dryness and also dress appropriately.
In spite of the challenges Anne has decided to turn her life around and live positively by encouraging those around her.
She and her friends run a programme where they visit secondary schools to create awareness about eczema.
“I always tell people that you should meet Anne before you meet the disease. My personality tends to overshadow the disease and my life has been great since I learnt to live with it,” she said.
She advises those with eczema to be outgoing saying being conservative would only draw more attention to oneself.