I'd really like it if my boyfriend could touch my nipples again, thanks.
June 14, 2012 1:26 PM   Subscribe

I'm not a mom, pregnant, nursing, or a runner, but I do have chronic eczema. My nipples are raw, painful, crusty, oozing messes and they have been for months now. I can't be the only one who has gone through this. Please help me.

I am unable to see a doctor until mid July and I'm sick of having disgusting and painfully raw nips. I've googled my brains out and I'm having trouble finding information relevant to my particular situation.

Background Info:
- Have had eczema since birth. Spring/summer is usually a time of healing for me but probably due to boyfriend's roomate's cats (a new variable this year), am having a MUCH tougher time healing eczema on other parts of my body and most especially on my nips.
- Nipple trouble started out a few months ago as dry, itchy, peeling spots and has progressed to red, raw, cycles of weeping and crusting.
- Nipple/areola skin will start to weep at the drop of a hat leading it to stick to whatever is covering it - bra, loose t-shirt, then when that item is removed, crust rips off and weeping starts again. I've tried soaking to remove fabric, but the water itself seems to be an irritant and will get the nips weeping again - the same thing has happened when nipple skin seems stable enough and I take a shower or bath.
- I am now trying to cover nipples with breathable band aids and have just bought a lanolin nipple cream designed for nursing mothers that I am using in conjunction with band aids to keep crust from sticking to clothing and bras. This solves the sticking/ooze seeping through shirts problem but when I change band-aids it just seems like the skin is even more red and pissed, and is WAY more weepy.

I'm not sure what the best course of action here. A lot of nursing mom advice is to just walk around topless and let the girls breathe all day. Days I have been able to do this for a few hours it seems to help tremendously, but I work 8-6 every day and have male roomates I've known since highschool and would like to avoid freaking them out with my frankenips.

I have a couple of prescription steroid creams from a previous eczema experience that I have listed below. I've tried these both for a brief period with no success so I'd like to not keep using them on the sensitive skin of my nips.

Help me design a plan of attack here. I have: lanolin nipple cream, gold bond advanced healing cream, super emollient unscented thick lotions like Vanicream, Eucerin, and a Whole Foods brand body lotion, prescription Desonide 0.05% cream, prescription Triamcinolone Acetonide 0.1% cream, breathable band aids.

I take fish oil and evening primrose oil, zyrtec and multivitamins, and I follow a paleo style diet. My change in diet did not trigger nipple drama. I think it could have been the cats at my partner's apartment. It's impossible to not be around them SOME of the time. We try to keep his room clean and cat free. I want to see an allergist soon. Have any of you had luck with allergy shots resolving skin allergy issues? Never confirmed but I think my seasonal and indoor allergies greatly affect my eczema.

Is there anything you can think of that I should try? Homemade remedies welcome. I'm ready to quit my job and live topless on a commune for the rest of my life if that's what it takes to get rid of this creeping crud.
posted by Gonestarfishing to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've had straight-up lanolin recommended for nasal dryness issues, but casual Googling suggests that lanolin can actually trigger eczema. The lanolin cream is probably backfiring on you, which would explain why things are actually worse.

If you think your allergies are triggering this, are you taking anything systemic for your allergies (e.g. Zyrtec)? Note that you'll have to go off these before doing any allergy testing.
posted by pie ninja at 1:39 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have actually found BodyGlide, the stuff for runners/hikers/anyone with skin friction, can also form an effective barrier against whatever is irritating your skin if it's more of a contact eczema than something you're ingesting. It can also help with skin rubbing/irritation from clothes over the top of it. REI usually has it or you can get it off Amazon. Note: I'm not a doctor and this may be terrible advice, but it's worked for me on my eczema.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:42 PM on June 14, 2012

I suffered from eczema as a kid and my mom forced oatmeal baths on me. I hated having to sit in a tub full of oatmeal (so gross), but I imagine a paste on the affected area might be really soothing. There's tons of home remedies/recipes if you search "oatmeal bath eczema" but I am almost positive her solution was store-bought.
posted by juliplease at 1:47 PM on June 14, 2012

Best answer: Any possibility that you might be able to sit in the sun a bit while topless? That might help a bit as long as you don't burn.

Also look into the disposable and silicone nipple pads and covers designed for breastfeeding women. Many women get cracked/bleeding nipples and need products that will both protect the nipple and prevent the ripping off of scabs and crust when removing clothing. Check out Medela's website. They make a bunch of these products.
posted by quince at 1:48 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: pie ninja - I have been trying plain band aids with no additional ointments or creams off and on when things get more oozy for months. The result is always that the skin ends up even oozier after having had a band aid on it. Just bought the lanolin cream today and have applied it once...I had absolutely no clue it was a trigger for eczema...eep! Thanks for that tip.

To clarify, at the very root of it, I don't know if I should be trying to keep them dry, or moist to aid with the healing process.
posted by Gonestarfishing at 1:48 PM on June 14, 2012

Best answer: HempZ lotion and butter have helped minimize my eczema.
posted by hortense at 1:49 PM on June 14, 2012

Try Soothies.

Also, a close friend has eczema, and she's found she can't live with furry animals, period. (Much to her sadness.)
posted by purpleclover at 1:54 PM on June 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

Oatmeal baths can be great. Just get a cheap tub of oatmeal, throw some of it in an old stocking and get it wet and dab it on the area, though you can also throw the oatmeal filled stocking in the bath and soak in it. The stocking stops your drain clogging up. I've found this helpful, but my eczema was never anywhere as bad as yours.

I have found soap to be a major trigger for my eczema, be it bath soap for washing or laundry soap. You can find emollient creams for washing, they don't foam like soap but clean well without irritating, and you might want to try switching up laundry liquids.
posted by wwax at 1:57 PM on June 14, 2012

Best answer: Oh god. I have been here. (Not with nipples, but with legs and everywhere else. Primarily, eyelids.)

I had a bout of excruciating persistent, weeping ezcema that caused my thighs to rub raw and weep and stick to things. It was horrible. Don't know what cured that at the end, a trip to Michigan caused it to back off and then come back and then back off again. We tried some homeopathic stuff, but knowing now what I know about homeopathy, I'm pretty sure that didn't contribute to its elimination.

Now I'm back to my normal chronic ezcema which takes root on my eyelids, ears, scalp, and parts of my chest.

For me, the silver bullet has been Elocon (mometasone furoate) cream, which is very effective in just a few short bursts of eliminating the offending ezcema for at least a week or so. It's kind of the nuclear option of steroidal treatments, but there are no real bad side effects since the quantities are so low and it's topical, so that's what I'd suggest. Elidel and the other lower-power steroidals are of no help to me.

For general relief from horrible crackiness, aquaphor can be pretty fantastic. It's basically lightly medicated vaseline though, so the consistency isn't great for places under clothes for obvious reason. (Neither is elocon, but it rubs in more and I put it on at night.)

Try to get your dermatologist to prescribe Elocon and see if that helps. Apply somewhat liberally for a couple of days solid and see if it kills it.
posted by disillusioned at 1:58 PM on June 14, 2012

Best answer: I got a bad nipple infection (breast pump complications) and only healed via the aforementioned Soothies (moist pads that keep the area from crusting) and APNO. A compounding pharmacy made it for me. If you need a 'scrip for it, try a lactation consultant -- you can get seen much sooner than waiting for the doctor. An LC will have seen lots of nipple damage before.
posted by xo at 2:03 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Medela Tender Care Hydrogel pads are amazing. Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter also works well and is lanolin-free. Medela or Lansinoh disposable breast pads could keep your clothes clean while you're healing without sticking to you the way that a bandaid does. (No eczema here, but I've nursed a baby.)
posted by mingshan at 2:04 PM on June 14, 2012

General advice: make sure any soap you use does not have Triclosan in it. It seems to irritate a lot of people's skin. I also found that cosmetics with oatmeal stuff in them do not work as advertised. If you are using either of these things, try switching to something different.
posted by gjc at 2:22 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

What about antihistamines? http://www.livestrong.com/article/180454-antihistamines-for-eczema/
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 2:27 PM on June 14, 2012

Best answer: Any chance you now have a fungal infection on your nipples? I would imagine that a sports bra could harbor a fungus and it would be easily transferred to the nipples. Maybe a little Monistat or some anti-fungal would help?
posted by PorcineWithMe at 2:43 PM on June 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I've only ever had mild eczema, and not in sensitive places, but applying fish oil directly on the skin rather than just ingesting it always cleared it up pretty quickly. This is something my mom made me do as a kid, and I don't know where she got the idea for it, or if it's a recognized remedy or just woo.
posted by Safiya at 3:07 PM on June 14, 2012

I came in here to recommend Soothies. When my daughter took a literal chunk out of my left nipple, Soothies helped heal it up in days.

I also came in here to recommend that you make sure you don't have thrush, which is a yeast infection. In fact, a woman of my acquaintance had thrush in both nipples, and then because of the compromised skin, she got MRSA of all things. Now, she was a nursing mother, but plenty of people who aren't nursing get thrush. Definitely try the Monistat.
posted by KathrynT at 3:08 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks SO SO SO much for all the helpful responses. I was about to throw myself off a cliff at the time of writing, but I feel a bit better now. I've marked those that I haven't heard of before as "best", but pretty much every response has a lick of truth to it, for future reference.

I've had the lanolin cream on for about 6 hours now and I don't have any burning or pain, or additional redness so I'm going to say it doesn't bother my skin...if it did, I would have blown up and started itching 5 minutes after applying.

I think my plan of attack for right now is to just be topless tonight to hopefully dry out the weeping. I'm going to pick up some of the gel pad things and some anti fungal cream from the drug store until I can find a compounding pharmacy to whip up some of the APNO recommended by xo.

Wish me luck!!!
posted by Gonestarfishing at 3:17 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're not taking Claritin or some other OTC allergy remedy, I'd try that for a few days ASAP. There is also a product called nursing cups that go in your BA and protect your nipples, not he same as the (wonderful) gel Soothies. Nursing cups will give you a dry environment instead of a wet one.
posted by bq at 3:25 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Definitely try nursing pads when using the lanolin. Not the gel soothers, I mean the pads designed to prevent milk stains on shirts. I never found the disposable (paper) ones comfortable or concealable enough. The cotton ones that you can just throw in the wash are great. Personally I like the Gerber brand. (full disclosure: my experience is limited to nursing uses, not eczema)
posted by ellenaim at 4:12 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Have you ever tried a bleach bath?




Seems like the studies are focused on the bleach treating possible bacterial infection, but maybe it's still worth a try.
posted by odin53 at 5:38 PM on June 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

What about breast shells? They form a barrier but are raised and allow your nipples to breathe. I can commiserate so hard with your eczema misery. Mine only cleared up to a non-miserable form when I was doing regular UV light treatment in high school and when I got pregnant.
posted by chiababe at 5:41 PM on June 14, 2012

if your reacting to cats, things are not going not get better till your gone or the cat is gone. Also, whats your laundry soap situation, try some free and clear kinds.
posted by couchdive at 5:46 PM on June 14, 2012

Best answer: I had severe eczema for many years, and in addition to some of the remedies above, found a few cups of olive oil in a warm bath helped.

It finally went away when I got on a mild anti-stress/anti-depressant. I went off that drug some years later, but the eczema never returned. You might want to look into that when you can see a doctor.
posted by vrakatar at 6:11 PM on June 14, 2012

100% raw Shea butter has worked wonders on my mild eczema. You can find tubs of it on Amazon, or sometimes you can find sticks of it at a drugstore.

Good luck!
posted by Fig at 6:23 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a new mom, dealing with heinous breastfeeding issues. So I just came in to second the idea of seeing a lactation consultant -- more precisely, an IBCLC. Also, all purpose nipple ointment, mentioned above by xo, contains antifungals, so if that's the problem you're covered. It DOES require a prescription in the US, though, which a mere lactation consultant can't give you. But she'll probably have a good relationship with at least one local dr.
posted by kestrel251 at 6:40 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a couple of prescription steroid creams from a previous eczema experience that I have listed below.

If the irritation is caused by a fungal infection, topical steroid creams can make it harder for your body to fight those off. I've had irritation get much worse using steroid creams on a fungal infection, so I would follow your instincts and stop using them until you try something with antifungals.
posted by gladly at 7:51 AM on June 15, 2012

Here's something a little out there, but you should consider it - have you been drinking liquids out of a plastic container? I had a horrible rash on my breasts for about 3 months, even went to my doctor and he could only prescribe a topical ointment that did nothing.

It turned out my new water bottle was made from plastic with BPA's (which of course the government says is a-ok), and as soon as I stopped using it, my rash cleared up. It took about 2 weeks to completely go away, but I had relief about 3 days after I stopped using it. I switched to a stainless steel bottle instead.

Also check out your deoderant, there might be an ingredient in there that's aggravating your eczema.
posted by lootie777 at 8:01 AM on June 15, 2012

Response by poster: Popping back in to say that lanolin plus disposable lanisoh brand nursing pads seemed to help overnight. When I changed the pad in the morning, there was no weeping, and redness seemed slightly better. I am planning to continue with the lanolin + disposable nursing pads routine until skin seems to be strong enough not to "relapse" so to speak by rubbing against a bra. If it gets bad again I will try the soothies...I went with the pads first because they seemed to be a better solution for keeping the girls in a dry environment. I'm going to go ahead and hypothesize that a dry environment is better here.

Did not buy a fungal cream just yet because I want to try one treatment at a time to pinpoint potential future solutions if this happens again (and it most likely will).

The articles odin53 linked to were really interesting and eye opening - will definitely try bleach baths as maintenance once my nipples are a little more healed.

Thanks again for all of the responses - at the very least they helped me to not feel so alone in all of this, and now I'm armed with a ton of great counter-attacks for future flare ups.
posted by Gonestarfishing at 9:30 AM on June 15, 2012

Wow, I have been nerding out about eczema for years and never heard of the bleach bath treatment -- but it makes sense to me because I've noticed that swimming in chlorinated pools helps my eczema clear up. Maybe that'd be worth a try for you too, OP.

(And for anyone reading this thread in the future, I wanted to recommend against regularly using strong topical steroids like triamcinolone, particularly for thin-skinned areas like nipples, because in the long term they thin your skin even more, and owww!)
posted by clavicle at 10:06 AM on June 15, 2012

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