WARNING: Article contains graphic images of severe eczema
A woman whose eczema covered her entire body and caused a “snowstorm” when she walked was cured by porridge.
Amy-Louise James, 25, had such severe eczema she had to change her bed sheets every day because of her weeping wounds and excess skin shedding.
Now James has treated her eczema using Quaker’s oats – bought from Tesco for £1.99.
She said spreading porridge over her body has made her skin fresher – and she is healthier than she has been in years.
Steroids, used to treat the illness, previously failed.
The controller for a recovery firm said: “People don’t realise how serious eczema is, they think it’s just red skin that’s a bit itchy.
“I had to change my bed every day because there would be so much skin and my eczema wept so much the sheets got all sticky.
“I itched constantly.
“There would be blood on the sheets too. It was just permanently painful.”
Story continues below...
James, from Northampton, would scratch so much, flakes of skin fell from her body and she would have to apologise to strangers for being “disgusting”.
She first suffered from a small flare up aged three.
“I can’t remember not having eczema. It started in the creases of my arms when I was little," she said.
The eczema gradually spread over her arms and patches appeared on the back of her knees, followed by her hands, stomach and over her legs.
In her teens the eczema progressed and by aged 15, it had spread to her neck and her face.
She said: “I was teased for having ‘lovebites’ on my neck but it was the eczema.
“I used scarves to try and cover it up but then they thought I was covering the lovebites.”
Most teens would reach for the foundation but Miss James had no idea how to use cosmetics.
She said: “I wasn’t one of those girls who knew how to use make up. I didn’t know how to cover it up.
“When I got to college and started going out, I just saw so many girls on nights out who were beautiful and I looked disgusting.
“I just couldn’t even hide it, so on a bad day I wouldn’t even leave my room.
“I thought it was down to stress with exams.”
Even sat at her desk, Miss James was faced with problems.
She said: “At the office I would have to go to the bathroom and have a scratch for 20 minutes.
“My fashion sense went downhill because I couldn’t wear anything that wasn’t cotton.”
Despite porridge having helped her, she still wears cotton. She said: “When I’m on nights, I sit in my cotton onesie answering the phone.
“People on the other end don’t know I’m in an elephant onesie.”
James’ partner of six years, Nicola Wilson, 26, has been incredibly supportive.
She said: “Nicola is a teacher so she works long hours and then she comes home and looks after me.
“I can’t bathe myself because of the condition so she washes me.
“We joke that she’s become my carer.”
James did not know why the condition worsened.
She tried several treatments in a bid to combat it and had become reliant on steroid cream, which can thin skin and cause susceptibility to skin infections.
She said: “If I had a flare up, I would use the cream all over then it would be at bay for two weeks.
“But when it came back it would be worse than ever.
“I’d used light treatment, different creams, medication, herbal remedies I’d tried everything.”
James came across the International Topical Steroid Awareness Network (ITSAN) which has research showing a link between steroid cream and worsening eczema.”
After discussing with her doctor, she stopped using the treatment in May 2014 and is now using other skin creams to calm the eczema.
But one of the surprising and effective treatments she has used on her eczema is available in the cereal aisles.
She said: “Now I make a face mask using goat’s milk and porridge oats, it’s really soothing.
“I have oat baths, you just use a pair of old tights to put the oats inside.
“The water looks disgusting but it works for me.”
Her home treatment, along with anti-histamines from her GP, have cleared up her eczema on some of her body.
She said: “My face is much better now, and my stomach and legs you can’t even tell I’ve got it.”
James still has severe eczema on her hands, neck and arms but is hopeful she will have further recovery.
However, due to the stress her body is under, and because she scratches patches of eczema on her head, for the past nine months her hair and eyebrows have been falling out.
She now washes her hair just once a week – with shampoo for thin hair and to stimulate hair growth – so not to irritate her scalp further and cause more hair loss.
She said: “I have to be careful with my hair as it’s holding on by a thread. I think others in my condition would have shaved their heads.
“It upsets me as I got my hair really long and healthy and then one day it started to fall out. I back-comb it to cover up bald patches. I’m trying to make the best of it.”
She added: “I started a blog to document my journey and so many people have been supportive.
“I’m no longer just the girl with the eczema.”