New Flares, Stretched Ears, and Self Awareness

I have an announcement to make. It is one that I am sure you all have dealt with before yourselves. The very type of announcement we with atopic dermatitis dread more than anything.

It is with my greatest displeasure that I announce that I have been bequeathed a new eczema flare by the universe. It’s an especially tricky one too. Lucky me. However, in a way, I kind of did it to myself. Let me explain.

It started when the weather cooled. It began with an itchy tingling sensation behind my right ear. Now, before I talk more about my new flare and how I’m coping with that I have to give you some context on the “self-awareness” piece of all of this.

What has my experience been with stretched ears?

So, the one thing you should know is that I have stretched ears, a type of body modification that involves stretching my pierced ears to a much larger size. It took nearly ten years to stretch them. It was done slowly and carefully, one millimeter at a time. Making sure to take every precaution to ensure cleanliness and healing were achieved.

How big and how small have they been?

At their largest, the diameter of my stretchers was almost two inches. Then I got pregnant and had a baby. I soon learned that baby hands grab with astounding ferocity and my stretchers were public enemy number one. So, I took them out and let them shrink up over another several years.They have gotten rather small, and look good considering the trauma they went through. They shrunk from nearly 2” to 1/2” in that time.

What are the risks of stretched ears?

Now the thing about stretched ears is there is always a worry about separation. Separation is when the stretched ear detaches from the head or lobe. It can happen on either side of the stretcher: detaching from the outer lobe or the upper jaw/ear. Luckily, the first signs of separation are easy to spot. Unfortunately, as it turns out, separation becomes a lot more likely when you develop atopic dermatitis at one of those detachment points. Which is where I find myself today.

How much does it cost to repair a detached earlobe?

For those of you who are curious, a repair of a detached lobe will run you around $400 per ear. I also learned they can completely reconstruct the lobe to look normal again, you can even get the reconstructed lobe pierced once it has healed. That goes for about $900 per ear.

Where is my ear flare located?

I’m finding it hard to allow myself to feel frustrated about the situation at hand because ultimately, I feel that I did this to myself. I knew the risks of stretching my ears and the outcome should the endeavor fail. I also knew that repairing a tear like that is costly and generally not covered by insurance. However, as this new flare spot develops at the junction of my earlobe and jaw I have found myself researching plastic surgeons and trying to budget around the cost more often.

What does this mean now?

When I began stretching my ears I accepted that I may experience detachment from infection or accident. I also did everything I could to prevent those things from happening. I could not, however, prevent eczema from happening.

It was a distant, unpleasant childhood memory that I never factored in that could happen again. Let alone to my ears. With all my youthful bravado and naivety I truly believed I wouldn’t experience atopic dermatitis again. Yet here I sit, hair in a messy bun to prevent it from getting in the eczema-specific barrier cream I have plastered around my ear lobes, researching reconstructive ear surgeons.

Isn’t eczema fun? 🙄

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