ALL of her life Holly Brom lived with the agony of eczema.
She was diagnosed with a painful condition at just two weeks old.
And when she was five years old, she was so heavy, she was hospitalized and wrapped in bandages to stop scratching her.
Jolie said she was prescribed oral steroids repeatedly, but her eczema only worsened gradually.
Only after years of struggle, now the 24-year-old has discovered a way to ease her eczema – to completely stop her steroid treatment.
The London-based graphic designer first learned about local steroid withdrawal (TSW) in February 2018 after researching treatments.
Convinced that her condition worsened, she decided to discontinue treatment last April.
And while her skin is still flaring, Holly says she's finally getting her eczema under control.
She says: "I don't want to claim to have cured my eczema, but I have found a way to control the condition that goes against any advice my doctors have given me.
"At the moment, steroids are as sweet as little with instructions on how to use them properly or when to stop them."
Jolie was born with atopic dermatitis, but was not discovered until she was two weeks old, and has since become progressively worse.
She said: "I had been struggling with eczema my whole life since it presented when I was two weeks old and steadily deteriorating until I was hospitalized at the age of five.
"I was wet wrapped in steroid bandages and constantly on oral steroids and antibiotics. I remember waking up every night and scratching until my bandages fell.
"My skin never responded particularly well to steroids, it was always so red and it was boiling hot.
"Fortunately, my skin calmed for most of my teenage years and I only had small braces for eczema. My skin was generally dry but nothing too uncomfortable."
Despite this, Jolie's eczema burned on her back, legs and arms when she was at university in 2017 – as a result of the stress of discovering Mom had a brain tumor.
She revealed: “I went through an incredibly stressful time while at university.
"I lived in a house with people who made my life difficult and at the same time my mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
I do not want to claim to have cured my eczema, but I have found a way to control the condition that goes against any advice my doctors have given me.
"Stress is my biggest trigger, so during this stressful period my skin has been constantly recording, and I have done what anyone else with eczema would do: I went to the doctors.
"The GP reviewed my skin, which had been the worst for years at the time and told me I wasn't moisturizing enough, not using a strong enough steroid, and she said, 'It's not that bad, I've seen worse.'
"I left the meeting feeling completely isolated."
Jolie says the doctor "has ruled out suffering on the basis of other people's eczema" and is accused of failing to properly manage the eczema.
She added: "I moistened twice a day, took steroids once a day and took my usual precautions, such as cold showers, but obviously that wasn't enough.
"Using Eumovat, my skin calmed down, but only a few months after I finished, it came back."
During the summer of 2017, Jolie's skin seemed to deteriorate and her back rash spread across her torso, arms and face.
She was in constant agony with the skin radiating heat and became sick to shower.
Holly said: "I struggled to get out of bed in the morning, my skin dripped all over the bedding, I shivered and my skin felt warm to the touch.
"I got an appointment with my GP and he prescribed me oral steroids, antibiotics and more eugenics.
"Fortunately, this was enough to calm my skin in time for graduation."
However, by winter, more than 70% of Jolie's body was covered in eczema.
By early 2018, oral and topical steroids had no effect on Jolie's skin, and she began trying new treatments, 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 the first birthday.
However, it can also develop for the first time in adults.
It is usually a long-lasting condition, although it can be significantly improved, or even completely cleared, in some children as they get older.
The exact cause of eczema is not known.
Some people have only small patches of dry skin, but others may experience widespread red, inflammatory skin throughout the body.
It can affect any part of the body, but most commonly affects the hands, the inside of the elbows, the back of the knees and face and scalp in children.
There are many different treatments to help control eczema, including:
- self-care techniques, such as reducing scratches and avoiding triggering (babies and young children may need to wear scrubs to avoid scratching)
- moisturizing on a daily basis
- topical corticosteroids to reduce swelling, redness and itching during inflammation
After hearing about TSW in February, Jolie investigated the condition before stopping using steroids on April 19, 2018, after trying to reduce her use by one month to no avail.
TSW dramatically resulted in Jolie coming back with her parents so she could be cared for six weeks into her retirement.
She felt so desperate for something to help and at the end of June 2018 she did not disclose moisture treatment (NMT), which helps the skin produce its own moisture.
Jolie said: "While reading the Diet for Eczema book, I came across a term I've never heard of." It was TSW. I found frightening pictures of people whose skin was unlike anything I've seen before.
"Initially, I denied that TSW was what I had, I used steroids as instructed by doctors to avoid being addicted to them.
“I wasn't wrong. I couldn't be 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 couldn't sleep anymore at night because of the nocturnal strokes and the constant itching that ran through my body," Holly said.
"I was shedding huge layers of skin every night and my boy had to go to bed every day, like a bed every time I slept in it.
"Underneath the layers of peeling skin was not new skin, it was raw, damaged skin that emitted yellow liquid.
"I could barely breathe more because of the pain of the water jets and the towel.
"Finally, I had to go back home with my parents to Gloucestershire because I couldn't take care of myself anymore and I needed access to the bathroom.
"Now I was red throughout 95% of my body, my adrenal gland was mixed and malfunctioning, due to its dependence on the synthetic hormones I rubbed on my skin.
"I was in an incredible amount of discomfort. I didn't recognize the face in the mirror and didn't leave the house for months.
"Finally, I came across a moisture-free treatment that involves stopping the use of a humidifier, reducing showers once or twice a week, moderate exercise, reduced water intake."
After a few weeks, Jolie's skin improved, the redness went right and her skin stopped teasing and many of her open wounds began to heal.
By August she was good enough to return to London and return to her job.
She said: "Since then my skin has been constantly healing.
"It still flares up every once in a while, but I just leave it alone and it returns to normal for a few days.
"I no longer moisturize, and my skin is less dry than when I was moisturizing. I take one or two cold showers a week and my skin is thankful for that. "
Holly and four friends she has made in the TSW community have since launched a campaign called "scratches" to raise awareness.
She said: "TSW is not currently recognized in the UK but has a huge internet community with people suffering from this condition.
"We have five of us, Harriet, Louise, Hannah and Laurie, who created the campaign called 'Scratch That' in order to get this status the recognition it deserves.
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"As a community we feel lost and unsupported, so we hope to change that.
"The goal is to campaign to get a prescription of topical steroids controlled and to get topical steroid dependencies diagnosed and treated properly."
To find out more about Jolie's campaign, you can visit her Instagram page here.