I have eczema. I've had it for at least five years; beyond that, I don't remember but I do know I've had it at least since the beginning of high school. At the time, I didn't know what it was, only that there were angry red patches of dry skin up and down my arms that never went away. I felt really embarrassed about them. I covered my arms all the time with sweatshirts so no one could see them, and I brought it up to my mom. She took me to the doctor and my doctor told me it was a virus, it would never go away, and to get some vitamin D by sitting in the sun every day.
I did this for a few months, but all it did was make the dry patches more dry. They were there all year round, but they were worse in the winter (and still are) so I thought maybe the sun was helping, but I have since then realized it's probably because of the cold, dry air in the northern mid-west United States that's making it worse in winter. I continued to wear long sleeves constantly, for fear of anyone noticing.
I went to my same doctor once more for my skin, because my mom did some research and decided her diagnosis did not make sense. The doctor said the same thing, though: nothing to do but sit in the sun for a while.
I switched to a new doctor when my mom did, and I mentioned the skin issue to her. She scraped a small bit of effected skin off and tested it to see if it was a fungal issue; it wasn't. She didn't do any more tests, and gave me a steroidal treatment that I never used (I can't remember why).
I've tried using lotion on the area after showers, and I've even tried scrubbing the areas harshly to get the flakey, dead skin off. Those things just made the skin more red and on top of that, it hurt.
Then, my mom (who is a nurse) came to me recently and said, "I think you have eczema." I then found as much information on it as I could and found pictures of other people with eczema identical to my own. I was happy, but also sad, because along with a diagnosis*, there was the prognosis. There is no cure, only treatment to make it manageable.
I decided I did not want steroidal creams to use on my skin because I did not want the bad side-effects, but I did find Aveeno's Eczema Therapy lotion. I've used it for the past four days and my skin has shown improvement. The patches of dry skin feel better (but not quite how my other skin does), and it is not as red.
I should be happy about this, but it honestly makes me feel worse.
When I look at my arms now, I am afraid, because I don't think it will last. I'm afraid that I'll wake up tomorrow and see bright red patches of skin glaring up at me. I'm afraid that I will always have to feel bad about the way my arms look.
I have a great, supportive partner. The (rare) times that I've mentioned how I hate the way my arms look, he always tells me that he never notices it and that I'm beautiful, no matter what I think. But I feel like any time I wear short sleeves everyone can see it, and it's all they can see.
I'm tired of people saying "what's that on your arms?" They don't mean anything by it, but it makes me feel terrible that my skin is disgusting and everyone can see it. It makes me hate warm weather, and it makes me less likely to hang out with people.
I'm afraid that I'll look this way for my wedding someday. I'm getting older, and I'm in a serious relationship. What if I do end up getting married sometime soon? I don't want to feel self-conscious on what is supposed to be one of the happiest days of my life. I want to wear a beautiful wedding dress and not have to wear some sort of cover-up.
I want to feel normal.
*Obviously making a diagnosis, even based on my mother's knowledge as a nurse, is not the same as going to a doctor.
I guess I don't know what I'm trying to say, here. I will ask, though: Does anyone here suffer from eczema or chronic dry skin? How do you deal with it? Am I alone in thinking the way I do about my skin?