Eczema so severe she nearly died from ailment

Flare-ups became so frequent that Ms Eu (left) had to be hospitalised several times a year. At its worst, the atopic eczema (above) spread all over her body.
Flare-ups became so frequent that Ms Eu (above) had to be hospitalised several times a year. At its worst, the atopic eczema spread all over her body.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Flare-ups became so frequent that Ms Eu (left) had to be hospitalised several times a year. At its worst, the atopic eczema (above) spread all over her body.
Flare-ups became so frequent that Ms Eu had to be hospitalised several times a year. At its worst, the atopic eczema (above) spread all over her body.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Friends launch crowdfunding drive to help pay for treatment which may ease symptoms

Eczema sufferer Eu Huiling has seen her condition deteriorate to the point that it almost killed her.

It worsened when she started work as a civil engineer after graduating from the National University of Singapore 10 years ago, and although it has stabilised, it is still so bad that the 34-year-old is unemployed because of it.

At its worst, the atopic eczema - which was previously localised to areas like her hands, face and neck - spread to the rest of her body, from her scalp to the soles of her feet.

The flare-ups became so frequent she had to be hospitalised several times a year and in 2010, she almost died during treatment as the condition had become so severe.

Cracks and sores appear, which she said give off a stench.

"Any attempt to move sends a stabbing pain throughout my skin," said Ms Eu, who also has had difficulty falling asleep due to the pain.

"My skin will fuse to the bedsheet if I am in contact with it for over 15 minutes. When that happens, I have to slowly peel the bedsheet off my skin and that tears open the skin again." Simple tasks like putting on clothes take a long time as she has to ease herself into them to avoid the fabric brushing against open wounds on her body.

The condition has since improved slightly but Ms Eu has spent all her savings - which added up to more than $50,000 - on treatment.

On Sunday, a page on crowdfunding website GoFundMe was started by her friends - former colleague Jackie Goh, 35, and secondary schoolmate Karen Hong, 34 - to raise US$6,000 (S$8,100) for her treatment and hopefully help her to lead as normal a life as possible.

As of yesterday, it had raised more than US$19,400 (S$26,200). Most of her 200-plus donors are former colleagues and schoolmates.

Ms Eu is currently undergoing regular ayurvedic treatment, a traditional system of medicine which uses a range of remedies, such as herbal medicine and yoga, at Union Yoga Ayurveda. The clinic is a 10-minute walk from her five-room Kembangan flat, where she lives with her parents and sister.

Ms Eu has tried more than 20 treatments, from traditional Chinese medicine to homeopathy.

The current treatment, she says, has helped to stabilise her condition, and she has since stayed out of hospital for the past two years.

Ms Eu hopes to make a trip to Kerala, India, this October for more intensive ayurvedic treatments after meeting a woman who underwent a similar ordeal but is now almost completely free of the condition after being treated there. The intensive treatment costs $1,000 a week.

Doctors here say there is no cure for eczema, but treatment - such as the use of steroids - can help to manage and ease the symptoms.

Ms Eu, who would like to be well enough to find a job again, said: "I am thankful that there are people who have not given up on me. It has made me more determined to work towards getting better."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2016, with the headline 'Eczema so severe she nearly died from ailment'. Print Edition | Subscribe