Atopic Dermatitis – An Incurable Condition or Doctor Prescribed Poisoning?
I’d like to share with you the story of my wife’s lifelong fight with the atopic dermatitis curse and her current road to recovery.
For many years, I watched her continuously scratching her dry, eczema covered skin. The scratching was driving her crazy, she didn’t sleep much and was extremely self-conscious about her terrible skin condition. The doctors called it Atopic Dermatitis. It started when she was a child, with a small amount of eczema in her elbows and knees. Her parents did what good parents do and took her to the doctor. She was prescribed topical steroid cream. This was 30 years ago. Topical steroid cream (TSC) was the wonder drug, it could cure everything. The problem is that TSC is an anti-inflammatory and doesn’t cure anything. It merely suppresses the body’s natural reaction to a problem. Hopefully it gives the skin a chance to get better in a week or two. The doctors probably told her not to use it for more than a couple of weeks.
For many people, TSC may be a very useful medicine but for the unlucky ones, a small eczema problem becomes a big problem. After the initial ‘cure’ from the TSC, the eczema may come back, but be worse than it was originally and in more places. A trip to the doctor / dermatologist ensures that a stronger steroid cream is prescribed and the problem disappears again for a little while. Before you know it, the eczema is back, much worse than it was originally and in many places. Back to the dermatologist. They call this atopic dermatitis and tell you it’s incurable. They’ll tell you not to use soaps, get rid of your carpets, stay out of the sun and prescribe extremely strong steroid cream, maybe an immunosuppressant and plenty of time in their UV box. They might even inject the steroid cream into you. They’ll tell you to try lots of different products and changes to your environment but never have the solution you desperately want. They’ll tell you to come back in a week or two to see if anything worked. It never does.
Didn’t they tell you not to use the cream for more than a couple of weeks? Now the doctor wants you to use more cream and stronger ones. As it turns not, the worsening problem is not some incurable condition, but simply steroid cream poisoning. My understanding is that after four weeks or so of TSC use, the adrenal gland stops producing cortisol, as it is getting it from the TSC. You now have a drug addiction. If you stop using the cream, your body reacts dramatically.
At the end of 2010, my beautiful wife was starting to look a bit old. Most of the skin on her body was very dry and some of it was flaky like corrugated cardboard. Her face was always very sensitive and went red very easily. Her face also had an unnatural gloss appearance to it. Her legs were also glossy and had a fish scale appearance. All of her skin was very dark. Her skin looked very thirsty. The skin on her hands and wrists looked like the skin of a 90 year old. She was 39. The skin on her wrists was so thin that there were patches of blood that you could see through the skin. The skin on her neck was very thick from 30 years of scratching. Her energy levels were very low and she had an irritable bowel. She was always itchy.
She had used topical steroid cream for the last thirty years. For the last ten years, she used it daily on the eczema spots around her body. She’d followed all the rules about moisturizing, not using soaps etc. She was using relatively low strength steroid creams and the cream tubes lasted a long time. She hadn’t been to a dermatologist for ten years because they had never been helpful.
One day, my wife and I had a big chat. We talked about the problem, the treatment of it, the side effects of the treatment and the possible future side effects. Her condition was getting worse. I told her that she was showing all of the textbook side effects of topical steroid cream overuse, was risking osteoporosis in the future and it was obvious that she had to stop using the cream and find a different treatment. She explained to me that once you start using the cream, you can never stop. She said she had tried before. I had no idea what she was talking about.
2011 started and she immediately stopped using the creams ‘cold turkey’. The initial reaction of her body was an incredibly swollen face for a week, bedridden and an extremely scared husband. What have we done? Her face then started on the many ‘cycles’ that we now understand. Her face got very swollen and red and then all of the skin would peel off. This was followed by clear skin. It was horrific to watch. It was obviously very painful but she never complained. The cycle would last for one or two weeks and then start again. She was constantly bedridden with an endless supply of ice packs on her face.
We visited our local doctor, who organized a referral to see a dermatologist urgently. This seemed sensible. Unfortunately the dermatologist was far from helpful. The end result were prescriptions for two different “alternative” creams, a “non-steroidal” cream and asked to come back in a week to start a minimum of three months of UVB light therapy three times a week. This was for a six month ‘break’ from Atopic Dermatitis. As it turned out, after speaking to a pharmacist, “alternative” creams meant much stronger topical steroid creams and “non-steroidal” meant immunosuppressant. My wife had been totally betrayed by the dermatologist. A subsequent complaint to AHPRA resulted in the doctor confirming to them that my wife made it clear that she didn’t want steroid creams or immunosuppressants but the doctor prescribed them anyway. The medical board’s decision was that “the doctor managed the consultation appropriately and provided appropriate treatment.” Welcome to the world of peer review and doctors with no morals.
We thought that we were on our own with this one.
A little while in to this big adventure, we came across a very thorough medical study by Clinical Professor of Dermatology Dr Rapaport that proved without doubt that my wife’s worsening condition was purely steroid cream poisoning and not an incurable disease. The study involved about 1500 patients, was conducted at UCLA, and resulted in absolute cure for all of the patients that didn’t give in and start using the steroid cream again. We came across another study by Japanese dermatologist, Dr Fukaya, with the same result. Finding these studies gave my wife reassurance that she was doing the right thing and it also gave her a road map of what to expect and how long it might take. This was very important for her morale.
My wife ignored all the ‘advice’ that the dermatologist gave her and continued on her journey of topical steroid cream withdrawal. The cycle of ‘flares’ on her face continued. It was always the same. Swelling, redness and skin peeling followed by a period of clear skin. She was very ill and hardly left her bed for three months. She was totally incapable of working and lost some weight. She spent a lot of time in the bath, although this was painful, as it helped to stop the itching. Her body temperature was always crazy, icepacks on her face and hot packs on her body, in summer. The irritable bowel fixed itself as soon as she stopped using the cream. Her face seemed to get most of the withdrawal symptoms, though she would get patches in other parts of her body. It was always painful and itchy and she looked a bit scary. We wondered how long this nightmare would last. We had read that withdrawal usually takes six months to two years to reach a full cure, depending on the strength of the cream and the duration of use. One day, sometime around the four month mark, she told me that her whole body was painful and that she felt like she was wearing a mask. She said that she thought she was going backwards with her withdrawal. The next day, the swelling disappeared and it was obvious that she had reached the turning point of her withdrawal.
The withdrawal cycles continued on her face and on different parts of her body but she found the energy to leave the house and go out for short trips. It was about this time that we headed to Japan where we would stay for a few months. Sometime around the five month mark, we noticed that the skin on her legs and torso seemed quite healthy but one day she got big pimples on her legs. We discovered that big pimples mean that that area is cured. After six months, her legs looked and felt the same as my beautiful (healthy) six year daughter. They were very light coloured, soft, oily, healthy – perfect. Her torso was almost as good but still had red spots on it and was just a little bit dry still. She was obviously well on her way to be cured.
At around the same time, since we were spending some time in Japan, she decided to go to a Japanese hot spring bath (onsen) which is famous for its very high oil and tar content. People with skin problems come from all over Japan seeking their miracle cure. After a week there with about three one hour baths a day, her skin all over was close to perfect. She was a very happy young lady. Unfortunately the great result from the onsen only lasted a week and then the cycles started again. She was quite depressed that week. Luckily her legs and torso continued to improve and they haven’t made any backwards steps since then. Considering that at the beginning of the year they were dark, dry, glossy, covered in a fish scale texture as well as the eczema and itchiness, this was a great achievement.
During the sixth month, her face was looking clearer and smoother every day, although a little dry. We are now in the seventh month and she is looking very healthy, compared to how she was before she started the withdrawal. Her skin condition is greatly improved, but she is still itchy and dry in some areas. There is very little eczema on her body, the areas of skin which were thin are now normal thickness, her skin is much oilier and a lot of her skin is very soft and nice to touch. Her energy levels and sleep patterns are back to normal. She is not yet cured and we’ve told that she probably has a year to go. Apart from the obvious pain from the swelling and defoliation, the withdrawal process is very hard mentally. The process is basically two steps forward and one step backwards. It’s very disheartening for her when a new cycle starts and her skin condition worsens. Mentally and physically, the withdrawal process can only be described as hell, which is probably why the doctors seem to have ignored the problem of steroid cream addiction. I have talked to other doctors about this and they seem completely ignorant of the idea of steroid cream addiction. We have had no help whatsoever from the Australian medical system yet, her dramatic improvement so far from this ‘incurable’ condition is irrefutable. We are in contact with many other people around the world, all who have had no support from their doctors, and all who are successfully recovering from this ‘incurable condition’.
Why is it that doctors are continuing to poison people rather than helping when there is plenty of evidence to prove that what they are doing is very wrong? Good question!
For our complete ongoing story and a link to Dr Rapaport’s studies