28 Months TSW

Twenty-eight months after stopping topical steroids (TS), how can you tell the difference between topical steroid withdrawal (TSW) and “just eczema”? We in the TSW community ask this all the time, as do some dermatologists and other doctors who can’t believe that TSW could last so long. I agree: How in the world could TSW possibly last this long!?!?

That’s why we’re asking dermatologists and researchers to study TSW in children and adults who are going through this lengthy withdrawal-healing process. They could gather lots of valuable information from the TSW support pages, pictures, and blogs and interview the affected adults and caregivers of children who are going through TSW. From this they could create a picture of this iatrogenic condition and formulate hypotheses on which to conduct more formal research.

I’m not complaining, mind you, or saying, “Woe is me (Brian),” because Brian pretty much has his life back, and skin care and itch management is part of our routine. I just want answers.

My questions to doctors and researchers who believe TSW is just eczema are these:

  1. Does eczema cause full-body, visible, measurable flaking and shedding of skin? TSW does. The pictures below show just the skin that shed overnight.
  2. Does eczema cause full-body erythema/flushing at one moment then return to normal-colored skin the next, then back to flushing again? It still happens now–28 months after stopping TS.
  3. Does eczema result in plasticky “elephant skin”? It happened early in TSW and it’s happening now, more than 2 years after stopping TS.

    4. Does eczema result in “red sleeves” in  arms/wrists and/or feet/ankles? TSW does.

    5. Does eczema result in heat radiating from the body at night like and TSW-ooze-smell sweating? Still going on most nights.

    So, if these signs and symptoms are not TSW and not eczema, what is causing this continued manifestation of signs/symptoms that were present in the early months after stopping TS? Is it just the long-lasting adverse effect of TS use?

    AND if doctors and eczema researchers have seen eczema that presents like signs/symptoms 1-5 above in their patients, are those patients using topical steroids? If so, then how can one definitively say that these signs/symptoms in the patients were NOT caused by TS?

    Food for thought and questions to ask your healthcare provider next time. . . .

——————————————————————————————————————

Life after eczema herpeticum. . .Getting through the challenges of Winter weather… Spring is right around the corner…Current regimen/treatment follows the pictures below…Don’t let TSW keep you down!  Look Beyond the Itch!

“I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure.”                        Psalm 16:8-9

2/1/16

2/1/16  Morning

2/1/16

2/1/16

2/1/16

2/1/16

2/1/16

2/1/16

2/1/16

2/1/16

2/1/16

2/1/16

2/1/16

2/1/16

1/30/16

1/30/16  Night time

1/30/16

1/30/16

1/30/16

1/30/16 night time

1/30/16

1/30/16

Goals: To keep the skin clean, hydrated, and infection-free; itch/scratch management

Treatment: Twice a day shower/bath followed immediately by application of either coconut oil, sunflower oil, or lemongrass balm/Zinc balm combo or a combination, depending on the condition of the skin. Wet wrapping (WW) both ankles and tops of feet at night with filtered water and dry sterile dressing; WW wrist and hands as needed if they are excessively dry or have open areas.

Vitamins: B complex, 4000 iu D3, Zinc, 2 Nordic Naturals fish oil capsules

Itch/Scratching: varies between 0/5 to 2+/5 scratch scale (see Log), stress scratching; benadryl PRN, ice packs, moisturizers (sunflower oil, coconut oil, aquaphor, and/or The Home Apothecary’s lemongrass balm), itch-B-gone spray; deep breathing and relaxation techniques, CBT, acupressure points

Function: Excellent! All A’s in honors classes, playing basketball, practicing and conditioning for baseball, x-box, RC cars, able to get up and ride bus to school with friends.

Look Beyond the Itch!

 

Eczema Herpeticum and 27.5 months TSW

IMG_2172

Don’t let TSW keep you down!  1/24/16

IMG_2156

1st snow of 2016 (1/23/16)

IMG_2157A belated Happy New Year! As I write this post on a snowy day, 27.5 months into Brian’s Topical Steroid Withdrawal (TSW) journey, I can’t help but give thanks and praise to God again for finding the International Topical Steroid Awareness Network (ITSAN) in the Fall of 2013 and for the many friends I’ve made in the TSW Facebook support groups. The support and exchange of information with TSW warriors and parents of other child TSW warriors like Brian have encouraged me to keep fighting for:

1) Recognition in the research and medical community of Red Skin Syndrome/Topical Steroid Addiction (RSS/TSA) and TSW in children;

2) Appropriate labeling of products containing topical steroids (TS); and

3) A change in the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) atopic dermatitis treatment guidelines that facilitates the prevention, early detection, and treatment of RSS/TSA and TSW in children and adults with eczema.

We’ve got a busy year ahead! 

Today is Brian’s 842nd day free of topical steroids (TS) for eczema. Overall, he is functioning very well, participating in extracurricular activities and school like any other 7th grader. His skin is still healing, but the skin and itch continue to be a seasonal challenge. “You need to follow summer,” says his pediatrician, who has been supportive in this process. So true. Brian’s skin is almost normal in the summer months as seen in these pictures from 2014 and 2015. Florida or the Bahamas may be in our future….

As you may know, the fall and winter months are particularly hard on the skin, especially eczematous skin. There is an increase in dryness and itching, and distinguishing between “true eczema” and “residual TSW” at this later stage is tricky. However, I believe he’s still got a bit of both. The underlying eczema seems to be reemerging (dry skin, itching), especially with the below freezing weather we’ve been having lately, but along with it continue signs and symptoms characteristic of TSW: Full-body shedding, red sleeves, elephant skin, “ooze” smell during night sweats. Pictures are below. (See FAQs for a full list of TSW symptoms.) This was particularly evident during Brian’s first experience with eczema herpeticum right after Christmas.

SKIN INFECTIONS  Thanks to the discussions about eczema herpeticum (EH) in the Topical Steroid-Red Skin Syndrome Support Group and with other moms on Facebook, I was able to suspect it as soon as Brian showed me those tell-tale vesicles and get him to his pediatrician right away. EH is a serious skin infection that can be life-threatening if not treated. Thankfully, his pediatrician was knowledgeable about it and prescribed timely treatment. He also said there was likely a secondary staph infection. Brian has not had a skin infection that required medication in quite a while, and this time he got a double whammy! Rx: antiviral +antibiotic+good skin/wound care.

Details and treatment are found in the LOG under Day 841, but the progression photos are below. It’s incredible how quickly the acyclovir cleared up the vesicles and pustules–gross! I know, I know!–and the scratching was noticeably decreased. I’ve always liked Brian’s getting a fever because he is never uncomfortable, and he stops scratching. He did develop a slight fever  (<24 hrs) which gave his skin a little respite from the scratching, but we knew his fever was breaking when he started scratching again, though much less than before treatment.

CLICK on any picture to enlarge.

 

 

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

SIGNS and SYMPTOMS that suggest TSW continues

1) Elephant skin

2) Red sleeves, edema, and blanchable erythema

3) Full body dryness, flaking, and measurable shedding of skin. (See shedding pictures in a past post.)

What’s horrific but fascinating about TSW is the marked and frequent changes in skin quality and appearance. Brian’s skin texture on his back and extremities has fluctuated between pebble grain, coarse sand paper, plasticky dry, and fine sandpaper. Just the other day, his entire back felt as soft and smooth as a baby’s bottom for two days. Now, it’s back to a pebble grain, sandy texture again. This is why we need doctors to study RSS/TSA and TSW. WE see all this rapid skin cycling 24/7, 365, but they can’t see the full sequelae in a brief clinic visit. Current pictures of his feet show a disappearance of the red sleeves, for now.

Even though he’s over the skin infection, we’ll continue our treatment regimen outlined in Day 841 in the Log. The main goals are to keep the skin clean, hydrated, and infection-free and to minimize itching and the damage caused by scratching, while enabling him to get adequate sleep and be as active and functional as he can be. Yeah, no problem. 😉

Don’t let TSW hold you up!IMG_2154

"Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to work we go...." 1/25/16

                                  “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to work we go….”

Stay strong, persevere, and keep the faith!

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!”  John 16:33

 

Report your Topical Steroid reactions to the FDA

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE report to the FDA any adverse reactions you may have or have had from topical steroids, non-topical steroid medication, or other medications you have tried for eczema. (Of course you should also tell your doctor of these reactions.)

Per the FDA, “bad side effects” include new or worsening of symptoms. Sound familiar? Tell them about the burning, stinging, increased itching, redness, oozing, shedding, swelling, insomnia, temperature dysregulation, hypersensitivity, fatigue, elephant skin, thinning skin, loss of function, loss of work or school, etc. Look oat the “side effects” listed on the patient information inserts. Have you experienced any of those side effects? They need to be reported. The only way doctors know what happens after we leave the office with these medicines is if we tell them and if we report the reactions to the proper authorities.

If you have stopped using topical steroids (TS) and are going through topical steroid withdrawal (TSW), list the signs and symptoms BEFORE stopping TS, then list the signs and symptoms AFTER stopping TS. Make sure to identify before and after, even if the signs and symptoms are similar.

They need to hear from more of us! All of us!

FDA Medwatch: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/

Remember to save, make a copy, or take a picture of your report, and follow up with a call to the FDA line –(855) 543-3784 toll-free, or (301) 796-3400– if you do not get email confirmation that they received it.

OTHER:
Canada: Canada Vigilance Online Adverse Reaction Reporting

New Zealand: New Zealand medicines and medical device safety authority

UK: UK Yellow Card Drug Reporting Link

That’s what I did when I found out that Brian’s “worsening eczema” was not just eczema anymore. Make our kids’ suffering count for something. Report your experience. We CAN make a difference!

Thank you!

TSW Update: 26 Months Free of Topical Steroids

December 6, 2015 marked 26 months since we stopped using topical steroids (TS) for Brian’s worsening eczema and deteriorating health. Throughout topical steroid withdrawal (TSW) and our attempts at using various alternatives to TSW eczema/itch management, Brian’s pediatrician has been supportive. I thanked him for working with us and not belittling or disrespecting us as other doctors have done to other parents of children going through TSW. He said that his main goal is to have a child be able to live, play, have fun, and do all the things children are supposed to do; whatever route that entails does not matter as long as it works for the child. Thank God for good docs.

Current function
Energy and activities–Running, jumping, laughing, playing, and getting cuts, scrapes, and broken bones like a normal 12-year-old boy. Finished strong in travel baseball and cross country. Playing basketball for the winter.

School: Stays up way too late but manages to get up every morning to walk to the bus stop with friends–even in 30 degree weather. Picking up where he left off last year, he made straight A’s on top of all his activities and despite the eczema/TSW spectre. We’re very proud of our TSW warrior for his perseverance and attitude through the toughest of times. Give yours an extra loving hug today!

IMG_1859

Cross country (Brian 2nd from left)

IMG_1936

IMG_1851

Feet still intact 12/2/15

But return of the full-body, measureable shedding of skin and…IMG_1921

plasticky elephant skin! IMG_1932

Challenges: Fall and Winter weather wreaks havoc: increased dry, flaky skin, makes skin itchy. Return of full-body, measurable shedding of skin. At night, one can palpate the heat emanating from his body and a dampness in the sheets like the oozing days of old, but not full-on ooze. More like sweating with the slight scent of ooze.

Scratch/Sleep: Compared to Summer, the frequency of scratching this Fall has increased: 0/5 to 3/5 during the day and 0/5 to 3-/5 at night, with or without erythema. Sleep is disrupted during the night again, general between 2 and 3:30 am due to scratching or being cold, and some nights he does fine. I just reapply the balms and oils and he falls right to sleep. Then I go on the computer to do more writing and researching.

Skin quality: varies from looking good with normal color to dry, flaky eczematous areas or head to shin (basically full-body) patchy erythema with dry shedding skin. This skin change can happen day to day or within 12 hours of each other. There are fewer regular scratches on skin. Tough areas are shoulder blades from night scratching.

Still TSW or just eczema now? Only time will tell, but to me, the elephant skin, full-body shedding, and ooze-related dampness indicate that TSW is not totally done; better, but not over yet. The eczematous symptoms, themselves, do seem seasonal, though, when I compare Log entries from October-December 2014 to the skin events October-December of this year.  It’s incredible how similar they are, even to the time of onset! And so we march on….

Current treatment
1) Prayer and thanksgiving
2) Skin care
Moisture maintenance: daily shower or bath, pat dry, immediate application of coconut oil to face, neck, trunk and the Home Apothecary’s lemongrass balm or breezy balm made specially for Brian by Stephanie. Same moisturizers after school, at bedtime, and during the wee hours of the night.
Infection control: periodic ACV baths (apple cider vinegar with “the mother”) or microsilk tub baths; application of mupirocin on open cuts if needed; lemongrass balm
Itch/scratch management: File nails to the nub; moisturizers above; itch-b-gone spray; ice packs; accupressure points, deep breathing and CBT techniques (cognitve behavior therapy). Recently started using a humidifier in his room at night due to humidity level less than 40%, which is extremely drying to the skin
3) MTHFR/Vitamins/Supplements–inconsistently taking b complex, vitamin D3, Zinc, NAC and 1/2 tab glutathione
4) Diet–not as good as it could to be but at least drinking water regularly

TSW is a rollercoaster ride through hell, but as with all rollercoasters, it will come to an end. Thankfully, we have met some incredible people along the way, and the strength that we’ve gained and the lessons we’ve learned will be beneficial to us and to others one day. Beyond the itch, life is good.

Have a blessed Christmas and a TS-free, Happy New Year!
Rosemarie

“I will restore you to health and heal your wounds” declares the LORD.
Jeremiah 30:17

Topical Steroid Withdrawal in Children

The peer-reviewed, revised version of “A Systematic Review of Topical Steroid Withdrawal in Children Diagnosed with Eczema” replaces my original manuscript submitted to Dove Press Medical in June 2015. My “Response to Reviewers” is published here so you can see reviewers’ comments and my responses and amendments to the paper.

After some revisions in response to reviewers’ comments, they chose not to publish it because they felt “there were no articles to support the inference that topical steroid withdrawal (TSW) can occur in children” (THIS was the point of the paper: there is no research on TSW in children, and research needs to be done because children are suffering), I will publish it here and make it available to the public in the hope that someone will accept the challenge to think outside the topical steroid box and study Red Skin Syndrome/Topical Steroid Addiction and TSW in children. Prevention, early detection, and treatment ARE possible, but the blinders must first be removed.

Keep sharing your pictures and your stories! Keep educating others and save someone’s skin!

“It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.”     1 Peter 2:15

23 months TSW and back to school 2015

You know you’re a TSW-obsessed mama when your child’s 1st-day-of-school pictures look like this:

First day of 7th grade 9/8/15. Have a GREAT year, Brian!

“A longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

705 Days Free of Topical Steroids! The TSW Journey continues…

As a last salute to a summer that went by way too fast, we took a cruise with some friends to the Bahamas and visited my mom and family in Charleston for 8 days of sun, food, and fun. I decided to leave my militant TSW rituals at home for the week to see how Brian’s skin and scratch would fare (see Log dated 8/30/15). Maybe it’s just a summer thing–like last year–but his skin got better and his scratching was no worse despite heat, sweat, sun, and water. See pictures dated 8/27/15. It was a nice vacation from our TSW routine and “itch-think”, and Brian spent all his waking hours playing ping pong, eating soft serve ice cream, and having a blast with his friends.

We’ll continue the experiment of no vitamins/supplements while monitoring energy, function, skin, and scratch. Hopefully, we’ll be able to discontinue the daily vitamins and supplements (which is like pulling teeth to get him to take anyway) which will simplify our routine.

TSW is very unpredictable, especially in the later months like 22 and 23+ months out. You think you’re finally done with the cycles and are healed, then BOOM! the full-body symptoms are back again, as if you were in the horrific early months of TSW. For this reason we are thankful for any and all good skin and itch times.

October 2015 will be Brian’s 2-year anniversary of stopping TS. Beyond the itch, he has definitely come a long way. Praying for strength, endurance, perseverance, peace, and healing for all TSW infants, children, adults, and caregivers. Never lose hope!

Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

Sunset in the Bahamas 8/26/15

Sunset in the Bahamas from the highest deck on the ship (taken by Brian) 8/26/15

8/26/15

8/26/15   Paddle boarding in Freeport 

Paddle boarding without a paddle in Freeport, Bahamas 8/26/15

Paddle boarding without a paddle 

Ping Pong on the beach

Ping Pong on the beach

IMG_1803

God’s gift of good friends