Andrew Collinson and his family discuss the impact of his severe eczema.

This post contains references to a specific medication prescribed as part of a personal care plan. If you are struggling with eczema, please contact your GP and/or dermatologist as each person needs to be assessed on an individual basis.  

Andrew Collinson’s family provide an insight on the impact his chronic eczema has on the wider family  

At the British Skin Foundation, we know that skin conditions not only affect the patient, but also those around them. The impact skin disease can have on a person’s wider family is sometimes forgotten, but it’s important to recognise the supporting role of loved ones too.  

The lifelong impact of eczema  

Andrew's skin during a flare

Andrew Collinson has lived with eczema since he was a baby. Finally at 30 years old he has found a treatment that works for him, Dupilumab, giving back some control over his skin after years of suffering.  

Andrew’s mum, Louise and his wife, Donna have offered their perspective of living with someone with a severe skin condition.  

With one in five children suffering from eczema, it’s one of the better known skin conditions. After experiencing eczema herself as a child, Louise initially thought that there would be an easy fix for Andrew’s skin. In fact, it was just the beginning of a long, emotional journey for Andrew and family.  

Nowadays we can search online and find self-help information very quickly, but when Andrew was a child, information was harder to find. Louise had to fight to get referrals to a dermatologist from the GP after attempting to control Andrew’s eczema with creams and bath oils alone failed.  

The time-consuming nature of a chronic skin condition 

After advocating for Andrew and his condition for years, Louise explains how time-consuming his care was, referring to it as a constant in their family life.  

He had brutal daily routines for washing and creaming which needed to be strictly adhered to. I needed to be vigilant with his skin, always looking for signs of infection, keeping his nails short, bathing him, using the correct washing powder, and changing his bedding regularly.

Aside from the gruelling skin routines, Andrew’s mental health suffered greatly. Dealing with bullies and embarrassment on top of being tired and unwell took its toll. Simple pleasures and normal everyday activities for children were a challenge.  

Louise explains, ‘All aspects of our family life had to be considered with Andrew’s eczema in mind.  Sleepovers were difficult for Andrew as he needed bedding washed with non-biological washing powder. He would often bleed on bedsheets at home so would be worried he would do this at his friend’s house. He couldn’t take part in school swimming lessons as he needed time to shower and cream down after.’  

The impact even stretched to holidays and family days out.  

Louise continues, ‘We were unable to book a caravan holiday as there was no bath. If we went to the beach, we would take a big bottle of water mixed with his bath oils to wash him down and then apply his cream. It affected my mental health too because I could see the enormous impact it had on so many aspects of Andrew’s life.’ 

The emotional impact of eczema on everyone 

Andrew and Donna

Whilst his Louise worried about Andrew, years later he also feels a sense of guilt for the impact his condition had on their family. His parents spent endless hours researching his condition and painstakingly caring for him. Even though it’s not his fault, the mental anguish Andrew feels is still there.  

With confidence at an all-time low as his friends began to date, Andrew describes his wife Donna’s interest in him as one of the biggest shocks of his life. Forever worrying he’d have a flare up and she would no longer find him attractive, Andrew needn’t have panicked as Donna supported him through some of his lowest moments.  

Even though they have been together a long time,  dealing with the condition is still stressful.  

Donna explains, ‘It’s hard not to feel hopeless when treatment plans have failed, and you don’t know where to turn next. We try not to dwell in negativity and instead formulate a game plan to fight the next battle, but it can often be too overwhelming for us all.’  

The endless toll of eczema  

Eczema on Andrew's face

At times, the couple has felt isolated and lonely, missing out on larger group activities and travel opportunities due to worries about food, alcohol and washing facilities. 

Donna explains, ‘We both thrive in nature, so when we got married our dream was to climb to Everest Base Camp on our honeymoon. Sadly, the disruption to Andrew’s diet and various hygiene challenges made it a non-starter for us.’  

It’s not just leisure and travel that’s affected. The pair likely won’t have children, partially due to concern of passing on severe eczema to their baby.  

Donna continues, ‘Eczema has been the theme tune of our whole relationship really. All events and moments are framed by it, either by the struggle, the strict routines, or even just by being grateful for the times his skin is clear and under control.’  

Whilst there’s never a day that Andrew’s eczema is not mentioned or considered, his new medication has helped the couple feel more confident.  

Donna adds, ‘It’s not perfect but we’ve come a long way and I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from his shoulders.’ 

Andrew's skin is much better following treatment

Andrew’s top tips for dealing with a chronic skin condition 

  1. If it’s been a while since you visited a dermatologist, try again! New treatments and medications may have been approved since your last visit. 
  2. If you aren’t happy with your doctor or dermatologist, try someone new – they may have a new perspective. 
  3. Advocate for yourself. Don’t be afraid to explain exactly how much of an impact your skin condition has on your day-to-day life. 
  4. Provide evidence! Arm yourself with photos, a diary of everything you’ve tried and been through. Express that it’s also your mental health suffering, as well as the physical effects. 
  5. Go to appointments with a list of questions or discussion points so you don’t forget anything in the moment. 
  6. Be kind to yourself and use your support network as needed. 
     

Looking for help? Find your nearest dermatology clinic here.  

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