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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 May 2006, 23:09 GMT 00:09 UK
'My poor skin is ruining my wedding'
By Jane Elliott
BBC News health reporter

Sally Eastland
Eczema has ruled Sally's life
Sally Eastland is hoping to get married next year - but is too scared to try on a dress.

The 37-year-old has been plagued all her life with painful and disfiguring eczema and was regularly hospitalised as a child.

Now it threatens to ruin her big day.

"I have cancelled three dress fittings so far. I cannot bear the thought of getting changed in front of a stranger as the eczema is on my back at all times.


"It sounds silly, but I hate the thought of putting my ugly skin into those beautiful dresses.

"I'm scared it will repulse the dress fitter, so I don't go. I book and then I cancel."

I hate the thought of putting my ugly skin into those beautiful dresses
Sally Eastland

Sally, from West Sussex, is so worried that she is even considering a winter wedding simply so that she can cover up her skin.

Throughout her life her eczema has undermined her self confidence and held her back.

"I never leant to swim because I did not want people to see me and could not bear the thought of my body stepping into shared water.

"These feelings certainly stem from my childhood when children would not touch me. I was often asked if it was catching and children would call me a leper.

"From the age of five to my late teens I was hospitalised roughly every 18 months, and/or seeing a skin specialist because the condition had got out of control.

"Throughout my childhood my skin had always been very dry and I would shed mountains of skin everyday.

"It covered my entire bedroom with a thin layer of dust. It looked like there had been a snowstorm.

"I remember the embarrassment of children laughing when I scratched uncontrollably.

"The scratching would remove layers of skin, leaving me with areas of open and weeping wounds.

"At times I looked like a burns victim. I could barely move and every move or knock would be agonising. My clothes would stick to my weeping skin."

And Sally's is a tale mirrored throughout the UK.


This year scientists announced two major breakthroughs which could, in the future, help relieve the agony for Sally and thousands like her.

Scientists in Dundee announced they had discovered the gene which causes dry skin, leading to eczema and asthma.

The gene produces the protein filaggrin, which helps the skin form a protective outer barrier, and they hope to use the discovery to tackle the root causes of the conditions, rather than simply treating the symptoms.

And scientists at Newcastle announced they had discovered a new way to use a 40-year-old drug to help treat the commonest form of eczema.

My clothes would stick to my weeping skin
Sally Eastland

The drug azathioprine was originally developed to help prevent rejection among kidney transplant patients, but the Newcastle University scientists found it also helped treat eczema.

Nina Goad, of the British Skin Foundation, which funded both research projects, said the breakthroughs offered considerable future hope to women like Sally.

"While still at an early stage, both of these breakthroughs will hopefully allow for new and improved treatments for eczema, which is a condition that blights the lives of a high number of people in the UK."

But Richard Camp, professor of dermatology at the University of Leicester and chair of the scientific committee of the National Eczema Society, said it was important people with eczema realise that these breakthroughs did not mean an instant remedy.

He said the Dundee study had provided important information in the search for a cure.

"I don't think in the immediate future it is going to help people with atopic eczema, but it is important in helping people understand the barrier function.

"It is not going to be a finding that will make a large difference in the next 10 years, but it is a huge finding for understanding eczema."

He said that understanding the function of the protective layer would help scientists in their search for a cure.

He added that the Newcastle study had been an important study in the treatment of severe eczema, but said milder cases would not be prescribed the drug.

But even though she knows a cure is not around the corner Sally said the breakthroughs have given her hope.

"The breakthrough in research is fantastic news, because at long last eczema will be dealt with internally rather than just externally."

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