Woman’s eczema leaves her in so much pain she can’t be intimate with her boyfriend

Woman’s eczema leaves her in so much pain she can’t be intimate with her boyfriend

Eczema is one of the most common skin conditions in the world, estimated to affect anywhere between 10 per cent to 20 per cent of children, and between one and three per cent of the planet's adult population. That's a lot of people, and for many, the flaky skin and red, itchy scabs are only a minor irritation. But for charity worker Harriet Hammond, her eczema has made her life almost unbearable, and now her skin is so sore and dry that she is unable to be intimate with her partner, Tom Barratt.

Harriet had been plagued by painful eczema since her childhood, and over the years had been prescribed various steroidal creams by doctors to help soothe her symptoms. However, as she entered adolescence, she gradually built up a tolerance to steroids, and when she decided to go cold turkey, she was met with a number of unpleasant withdrawal side effects, which included livid rashes and painful, oozing blisters.

An image of Harriet Hammond. Credit: Press Association

Without the steroid creams, Harriet's flesh had become so covered in rashes and oozing blisters that she was forced to sign off work and move back in with her retired parents. Unable to move far or wash properly, because of the excruciating pain her skin was in, she needed help to perform simple tasks like making herself a hot drink, and soon her bed was covered in shed scaly skin. Harriet's sleep cycle was also badly affected, and at one point she was only sleeping for three hours a night due to the pain she was in.

Commenting on her agonising skin condition in a recent interview, Harriet stated; "There were rashes all over my body and my face was red and incredibly swollen. I was signed off work by a doctor because my skin appeared to be literally falling off ... I couldn’t walk or move much at all without being in pain. I lost over two stone in weight, but I have no idea why as I was still eating, and lost a third of my hair as my dry and scabby scalp made it fall out."

She added: "I feel better now that I’m not housebound, but I’m still suffering. My work distracts me but, once I get home, the reality that it hasn’t gone away hits me again and I feel the urge to scratch or cry ...We can’t be intimate at all because it’s just too uncomfortable and painful to move that much and be so close to someone else’s skin.

An image of Harriet Hammond and Tom Barratt. Credit: Press Association

"It’s been this way for a year - ever since I ditched steroids. We’re affectionate and he does a lot for me, like washing my hair and cooking for me because getting my hands wet makes them awfully itchy and preparing food can bring my skin out in more rashes."

"I don’t want him to become my carer, so I try to make my own dinners sometimes – which ends up being a celebration for the achievement. We hoped to move away last summer to Hertfordshire and get new jobs because we wanted to make a fresh start for ourselves, but my condition has put us on hold. I hope that with time I will improve, and eventually, we can live how we always dreamed."

Despite all this, Harriet is still confident that staying off the steroids will be better for her in the long run, and although she is still affected, she claims that her skin is beginning to improve gradually.