'A lot of things work for a while, then lose their effectiveness' 

Battling against eczema for most of his life, John Fuller has tried just about every treatment option available.

John's eczema began when he was a baby. "It was always there as far back as I can remember," he says. "My skin would turn red raw and I would scratch and scratch. We tried everything from creams to salt baths. I have a very strong memory of sitting for ages in a salt bath because our GP suggested it. Luckily, I wasn't bullied for having eczema like many children seem to be."

When John was 11, the family went to Barbados for a holiday. While they were there, they discovered the aloe vera plant.

"Someone suggested it might help my eczema and we were ready to try anything. Aloe vera is everywhere now, but back then nobody had heard of it. When we got back, we started growing it in our garden. I'd have to rub the plant juice all over me. Amazingly, the eczema cleared up for the next nine years."

John hoped he'd grown out of the condition. However, his eczema came back when he was finishing university. "The redness and the itching began again," he says. "Soon it was all over my arms and legs, and it's been there ever since."

John says he's tried every treatment going, including steroid pills and creams, and cyclosporin, a strong drug used mainly to stop transplant patients rejecting their new organs. It works by damping down the immune system.

"That was effective for a couple of years but it can damage your internal organs, so you can't stay on a high dose for too long," he explains. "I had to have regular blood tests to make sure everything was working properly, and eventually had to go on such a low dose that it wasn't worth it.

"I've been in hospital three times. In hospital you get the same treatment that you do at home, but it's more intensive and it's also cleaner."

He has also experimented with complementary therapies. "I went to a Chinese herbalist, who gave me some disgusting-tasting tea to drink every night," he says. "For a while, it seemed to work. Then the eczema came back. I found a lot of things work for a while but then lose their effectiveness."

John tries his best to live a normal life, but says it's not easy. "When the itching is really bad, it's very hard to concentrate at work," he says. "Sometimes I have to take time off. Employers don't like that, and it has an impact on everyone I work with. Sometimes sleeping is just impossible and that affects my daily life as well. I love playing cricket but direct sunlight turns me bright red. I look like a tomato."

John is resigned to living with his condition, but he still has hope. "Nobody knows why I have eczema and as yet there's no cure, but you never know. One day I could wake up and the eczema will be gone. Until then, I have to make do with the treatments we have."

Picture of John Fuller

Page last reviewed: 25/11/2014

Next review due: 25/11/2016