ALL her life Holly Broome has lived with the agony of eczema.
She was diagnosed with the painful condition at the age of just two weeks.
And by the time she was five it was so severe she was hospitalised, and wrapped in bandages to stop her scratching herself.
Holly said she constantly prescribed oral steroids, but her eczema just got progressively worse.
It was only after years of struggling that the now 24-year-old has discovered a way to ease her eczema - to stop her steroid treatment altogether.
The graphic designer, from London, first learned about topical steroid withdrawal (TSW) in February 2018 after researching treatments.
Convinced it was making her condition worse, she decided to stop the treatment last April.
And while her skin still flares up every now and then, Holly says she finally has her eczema under control.
She says: "I dont want to claim that Ive healed my eczema, but Ive found a way to control the condition which goes against any advice my doctors gave me.
"Currently, steroids are handed out like sweets with little instruction on how to use them properly or when to stop."
Holly was born with atopic dermatitis but it wasnt discovered until she was two weeks old, and from then it became progressively worse.
She said: "Ive struggled with eczema my whole life after it presented itself when I was two weeks old and got steadily worse until I was hospitalised aged five.
"I was wet wrapped in steroid bandages and was constantly on oral steroids and antibiotics. I remember waking up every night and scratching until my bandages fell off.
"My skin never responded particularly well to steroids, it was always so red and burning hot.
"Thankfully my skin calmed down for most of my teenage years and I only had small patches of eczema. My skin was generally dry but nothing too uncomfortable."
Despite this, Holly's eczema flared-up on her back, legs and arms when she was at university in 2017 - due to the stress of discovering her mum had a brain tumour.
She revealed: "I went through an incredibly stressful period whilst at university.
"I lived in a shared house with people who made my life difficult and at the same time my mum was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
I dont want to claim that Ive healed my eczema, but Ive found a way to control the condition which goes against any advice my doctors gave me
"Stress is my biggest trigger so throughout this stressful period my skin kept flaring, and I did what anyone else with eczema would do: I went to the doctors.
"The GP took a quick look at my skin, which by that point was the worst it had been in years, and told me I wasnt moisturising enough, that I wasnt using a strong enough steroid and she said its not that bad, Ive seen worse.
"I left that appointment feeling completely deflated."
Holly says the doctor had "dismissed her suffering based on other people's eczema" and she was blamed for not managing her eczema properly.
She added: "I was moisturising twice a day, applying steroids once a day, and taking the usual precautions such as cool showers, but apparently this wasnt enough.
"Using Eumovate, my skin did calm down, but only a few months after I graduated it came back again."
During the summer of 2017, Hollys skin seemed to be getting worse and the rash on her back was spreading all over her torso, arms and face.
She was in constant agony with her skin radiating heat and it became painful to shower.
Holly said: "I struggled to get out of bed in the morning, my skin oozed fluid all over the bed sheets, I was flaking, and my skin felt hot to touch.
"I got an appointment with my childhood GP and he prescribed me oral steroids, antibiotics and more Eumovate.
"Thankfully this was enough to calm my skin down in time for graduation."
However, by winter, more than 70 per cent of Hollys body was covered in eczema.
By the start of 2018, oral and topical steroids had no effect on Hollys skin, and she started trying new methods of healing, but nothing helped.
What is eczema?
Eczema is a condition that causes the skin to become itchy, red, dry and cracked.
Atopic eczema (the most common form of the condition) is more common in children, often developing before their first birthday.
However, it may also develop for the first time in adults.
It's usually a long-term condition, although it can improve significantly, or even clear completely, in some children as they get older.
The exact cause of eczema is not known.
Symptoms:Some people only have small patches of dry skin, but others may experience widespread red, inflamed skin all over the body.
It can affect any part of the body but it most often affects the hands, insides of the elbows, backs of the knees and the face and scalp in children.
There are many different treatments to help control eczema, including:
After hearing about TSW in February, Holly researched the condition before stopping all steroid use on April 19, 2018, after trying to taper down her usage for a month to no avail.
TSW dramatically resulted in Holly moving back in with her parents so she could be taken care of six weeks into her withdrawal.
She felt so desperate for something to help and at the end of June 2018 she discovered no moisture treatment (NMT), which helps the skin produce its own moisture.
Holly said: "Whilst reading the Eczema Diet book, I came across a term Id never heard before. "That was TSW. I found horrifying images of people whose skin was unlike anything Id seen before.
"Initially I was in denial that TSW was what I had, I used steroids as the doctors instructed so I couldnt be that addicted to them.
"I was wrong. I couldnt possibly have been prepared for how bad my skin would get."
Holly stopped using any kind of steroid in April 2018 and over the next month her skin deteriorated rapidly.
"I could no longer sleep at night due to night sweats and the constant itch that moved around my body", Holly said.
I shed vast layers of skin every night and my boyfriend had to hoover the flat every day, as well as the bed every time I slept in it.
"Underneath the layers of the skin that were peeling off wasnt new skin, it was raw, damaged skin that oozed a yellow liquid.
"I could hardly shower anymore due to the pain of the water jets and the towel.
"Eventually I had to move home with my parents in Gloucestershire as I couldnt look after myself anymore and needed access to a bath.
I was now red over 95 per cent of my body, my adrenal gland was messed up and not functioning properly due to its dependence on the synthetic hormones Id been rubbing onto my skin.
"I was in an unbelievable amount of discomfort. I didnt recognise the face in the mirror anymore and I didnt leave the house for months.
"Eventually I came across the no moisture treatment which involves ceasing the use of any moisturiser, reducing showers to once or twice a week, moderate exercise, reduced water intake."
After a few weeks, Holly's skin improved, the redness went right down and her skin stopped oozing and many of her open wounds started healing.
By August she was well enough to move back to London and go back to her job.
She said: Since then my skin has been constantly healing.
"It still flares every now and then, but I just leave it alone and within days its back to normal.
"I no longer moisturise, and my skin is less dry than when I was moisturising. I stick to one or two cool showers a week and my skin is thanking me for it."
Holly and four friends shes made in the TSW community, have since started a campaign called Scratch That to raise awareness.
She said: "TSW isnt currently recognised in the UK but theres a massive online community of people suffering from this condition.
"Theres five of us, myself, Harriet, Louise, Hannah and Laurie who have created the campaign called Scratch That, with the aim of getting this condition the recognition it deserves.
RASH CALL Mum left heartbroken as photographer suggests airbrushing her sons eczema away
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SKIN-CREDIBLE 'Miracle' bargain cream from Aldi 'cured' my son's painful eczema overnight
SKINCREDIBLE Mum-of-two claims she cured son's painful eczema with 4.90 soap
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SKIN-CREDIBLE Boy with eczema that left him like 'burn's victim' is 'cured by 4.50 cream'
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"As a community we feel lost and unsupported so we're hoping to change this.
"The aim is to campaign to get the prescription of topical steroids more controlled and to get topical steroid addiction diagnosed and treated properly."
To find out more about Holly's campaign you can visit her Instagram page here.
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