A man and a woman holds hands and dance beside a large tube of cortisone cream.

The Start of My Love-Hate Relationship with Cortisone

A couple of years after my father passed away, my mother and I took the cruise to Alaska that she and dad had always planned. As a side note; don’t wait to do the things you want to do. You don’t know what will happen, whether that’s losing your eyesight, your mobility, or any number of health problems that could drastically curtail or even end any long-planned activities.

I had been on my own for a few years, my children grown and with their own lives, and this trip with my mother was a way of reconnecting, as we lived on opposite sides of the country. A way to get to know each other more as adults, almost as contemporaries.

My mother's beautiful skin

My mother had beautiful skin, smooth and still almost wrinkle-free.  One of my friends asked her once what she used on her face to keep it so young. Her answer? “Ivory soap.” Not even a moisturizer! I could understand why it had been difficult for her, bringing up daughters with eczema.

A night out dancing

But back to my first cruise, which I recommend highly; Alaska is an amazing place. A couple of nights in, we dressed up and went to a small club with a group playing music we both enjoyed. I actually accepted an invitation to dance a couple of times with an older man who was a great dancer.

Being told to wear gloves to cover hand eczema

Imagine how surprised I was the next evening after a dance with this same gentleman when he suggested I should wear gloves when I did housework! I couldn’t believe this stranger was actually bold enough to voice his opinion. But it did remind me my eczema was quite noticeable. I was already looking forward to my previously scheduled appointment with the dermatologist.

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Secondary lichenification

The new problem, which I later learned was secondary lichenification, had developed on my palms. Itchy, thick, red skin on both of them. After a shower, when the skin was soft and moist, I could use a fingernail and easily scrape off numerous layers. Which of course was the worst thing I could have done to them. My arms had no flares, even my fingers weren’t cracked and bleeding, only the palms were affected.

My first topical steroid: cortisone cream

The visit with my dermatologist after returning home gave what I thought was a very easy and almost miraculous solution. Cortisone cream! In no time, my hands were back to normal, or at least what was normal for me. This was my first topical steroid use and began my love-hate relationship with cortisone. I’ve wondered since then if perhaps I didn’t really want to know if there were any downsides to its use, but I wish I had known then what I know now. At the time it worked like a charm and warnings about the dangers of cortisone use were brushed off as something to worry about later.

This happened even before the days of “Ask Jeeves,” for anyone old enough to remember that. But would I have questioned something that worked so well?

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