Getting an Allergy Test While in Topical Steroid Withdrawal
Last updated: January 2023
In 2020, I began going through TSW (topical steroid withdrawal). The steroids I was using to treat my eczema stopped working, so I stopped using them.
Confused about new rashes
Almost immediately, the rashes, usually confined to my arm creases, hands, and wrists, ended up spreading to about 70 percent of my body. It became debilitating very quickly. I was bedbound for a good 6 months and housebound for about 2 years, and the physical pain I was in was the most severe I've ever had.
When all of this started, I was terrified and confused. I had no idea what was going on with me and why my "eczema" suddenly blew up to the point of covering most of my body. Eventually, after researching, I found an article about someone with a full-body rash caused by eczema medication. At that point, I realized that this was what was going on with me; the rash and all of the symptoms this person described matched up entirely with what I was experiencing.
Learning about topical steroid withdrawal
Once I learned what TSW was, I assumed I would get some relief and direction on where to go next. It felt good to put a name to what was happening, but I was even more confused and scared than before.
Topical steroid withdrawal is a condition that some doctors won't acknowledge, let alone have the ability to treat. The only information available to me was from other people who were also going through TSW. Some people quit all medication and did nothing else; some tried other drugs such as immunosuppressants, others tried natural routes like traditional Chinese medicine, and others did allergy or food sensitivity tests and tweaked their diets and environments accordingly.
My journey to healing from TSW
After trying an immunosuppressant for a few months, it stopped working, so I stopped taking it. The next thing I tried was allergy testing. I've heard mixed things about this from people in the TSW community. Some say that they got tested, removed the identified allergens from their environment and diet, and found it alleviated flares.
Others said that allergy testing is useless, topical steroid withdrawal heightens sensitivity to everything, and it won't make a difference.
Getting an allergy skin prick test
I decided to give allergy testing a shot because I was at such a loss about what was going on with me and was hoping that whatever knowledge I gained from this testing could offer some relief.
I got a skin prick test for the most common environmental allergens. I decided to do this because my food allergens are a pronounced and fast reaction. Still, my reactions to environmental allergens are usually pretty mild, and I normally just brush them off.
Details of my allergy test
In a skin prick test, doctors place a liquid drop of allergen on your skin and then prick it with a plastic tool. About 15 minutes pass to see if there is any reaction to each allergen.
I felt my back start to itch almost immediately, so I knew I was allergic to multiple things on the allergen panel. After 15 minutes, the healthcare professional who administered the test noted what I reacted to and then cleaned the allergens off my back with an alcohol wipe.
Just as she was about to slather a bunch of hydrocortisone (a steroid) on my back, I asked her what she was putting on me before she did. At this point in my TSW journey, I was adamant about avoiding all topical drugs because I didn't want to worsen my already miserable state. The nurse obliged, and I avoided the hydrocortisone, which worked out fine because the itching on my back from the allergy testing went away in about 10 minutes.
Results of the allergy skin prick test
After completing the allergy skin prick test, the results showed that I was allergic to everything on that panel besides indoor mold. I wish I could say that this testing offered me some relief, but I already have an air purifier in my room, use bedding that protects against dust mites, and don't have any pets or a roach problem.
Still searching for answers
The only thing I thought could've been bugging me was indoor mold if that was an issue, but that was the only thing I wasn't allergic to. While I couldn't do much about my TSW symptoms, I'm glad I got my allergies tested. Dealing with chronic health issues can be frustrating, but finding out what isn't bothering you can be one step closer to finding out what is.
How often do you connect with others who have food allergies?