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This Woman’s Eczema Was So Bad She Stayed Home For A Year

A university student wants to raise awareness of eczema after her condition was so painful she couldn't drive or even hold her boyfriend's hand - and she even locked herself away for a year.

Grace Ridgway, 23, from Shropshire, first started to suffer from a mild form of eczema as a toddler, which her parents controlled with emollient therapy.

The eczema began to flare up after she started secondary school, with the upper lip, hands and temple areas particularly bad.

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Credit: Media Drum World
Credit: Media Drum World

After having a patch test, she discovered that not only did she have atopic dermatitis, she also had contact dermatitis, meaning that certain substances would flare up her eczema. These included substances contained in perfumes and fragrance derived from citrus fruits.

Credit: Media Drum World
Credit: Media Drum World

Grace's skin became so raw that doing everyday things such as driving, washing her hair and even drinking became impossible. From May 2018, Grace even locked herself away for a year. She had met her boyfriend Jim in 2017, and due to the severity of her condition, she would even struggle to hold his hand.

With the help of treatments such as emollient therapy and a biologic drug that she began using a few months ago, Grace's skin has cleared up and she finally felt confident enough to revive her social life.

"Once you have eczema, you have it for life, and the condition can flare at any time. I was always aware of the fact that I had eczema growing up, even when symptoms were not present," Grace says.

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"My eczema hugely affected my personal life and confidence; I went from being a young woman that loved makeup and buying new clothes to a person that lived in a shell, never applied makeup, rarely washed her hair due to the pain of the water hitting her skin, and was limited to cotton clothing.

Credit: Media Drum World
Credit: Media Drum World

"I became a shadow of my former self and I am so happy that I am now beginning to find that person again."

Grace's condition caused many problems within her daily routine, including her relationship, but says Jim has always been very understanding.

"In terms of intimacy, he is extremely understanding and often tells me that he doesn't even see my eczema, which is lovely to hear," she says.

"There have been times when I haven't been able to hold his hand or give him a hug due to the pain I've been in with my skin.

Credit: Media Drum World
Credit: Media Drum World

"It also made it particularly difficult for him as he was very conscious of hurting me, but we have thankfully got through this difficult time together and are stronger than ever.

"Suffering with eczema has limited my life in so many different ways; I have to be conscious of what I am eating, drinking, wearing, and the conditions that I live and work in.

"There was a period of time that I couldn't drive due to having little movement in my hands, and during this time had to be cared for mostly by my boyfriend and mum.

"The simplest of tasks proved difficult, from washing my hair to lifting a drink to my mouth. When your condition rules such simple aspects of your life, it's difficult to even think of doing anything further such as exercising or socialising.

"For over twelve months I was reluctant to leave the house and unfortunately my friendships suffered as a consequence."

Credit: Media Drum World
Credit: Media Drum World

Grace adds that she is keen to raise awareness as the feels the condition is misunderstood.

"My support system has been incredible but beyond this small support system, I have found others misunderstand eczema, particularly the severity to which it can reach, and a great deal of ignorance.

"Missing out on social events was translated by many as me being ignorant and abrasive, only adding to the upset and distress.

"Since I have gained control of my skin, I have also gained my life back. This may sound dramatic but it's the truth.

Credit: Media Drum World
Credit: Media Drum World

"I lost myself whilst suffering with this chronic skin condition and I am so thankful that my current treatment approach has enabled me to re-establish my social life and begin to rebuild old friendships and discover new ones."

She adds: "I am so very passionate about raising awareness of eczema and other skin conditions. I could never have imagined that it would impact my life the way it has and wish that I had the support of the medical professionals I do now.

"The most important thing when you are suffering with a skin condition is to ensure that the professional help and guidance available is right for you."

For support with eczema, visit the National Eczema Society.

Featured Image Credit: Media Drum World

Topics: News, Real

Deborah Cicurel

Deborah Cicurel is a freelance journalist at Pretty52. She writes entertainment, travel and lifestyle content for a variety of print and digital titles.

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