SoCo: What brought you to Southern CT Dermatology?
S.S.: I began seeing Dr. Evans in 1994 when she first opened her own office. She removed a few atypical moles, helped manage my eczema flares with topical creams, and treated my periodic ‘mystery’ body rashes.
Through the years, Dr. Evans monitored my moles every six months with full body skin exams. She also investigated my eczema flares and rashes. Dr. Evans didn’t just try to control the flares with temporary treatments, she pursued every possible cause for my condition. What I particularly appreciate is her holistic approach as she searched for medical, dietary, and environmental causes and treatments.
SoCo: What kind of tests did she run?
S.S.: Dr. Evans did extensive blood tests not just to rule out possible medical conditions but also for vitamin levels and even heavy metals. She performed skin biopsies, allergy and intolerance tests, and contact allergy patch testing. In 2000, she sent me to Yale for more extensive patch testing. That test revealed that I had real contact dermatitis issues caused by a number of substances in the cosmetics and products I was using every day.
SoCo: So unwittingly you were exposing yourself to irritants on a daily basis. How did you find relief?
S.S.: A short round of prednisone and cortisone cream along with strict avoidance of the substances stopped a dreadful all-over body flare I had at the time.
SoCo: But I’m guessing it didn’t end there.
S.S.: As the years passed, any eczema on my face responded well to treatment with mild cortisone creams, topical immunosuppressants, or non-steroidal creams. However, over the course of last year, the eczema slowly became more frequent and intense and was not responding to treatment as before.
SoCo: Did you reach some kind of crisis point?
S.S.: Suddenly, in January 2016, I suffered the worst eczema flare I’d ever endured. I looked like I was wearing a red mask (see “before” photo above). My entire face was swollen and bright red. It was burning and stinging continuously and felt hot, raw, very taut, and dry. It was actually painful if my face touched the pillow. It burned just to gently wash my face and apply cream. It even affected my ability to eat. This was a dreadful experience. I felt so ill and scared.
Dr. Evans immediately did a skin biopsy and had me stop all prescription creams except for one non-steroidal to calm and moisturize my face. Dr. Evans started me on antibiotics for one month to control the severe inflammation. Then my skin peeled off layer by layer, day after day and became itchy. Finally, the antibiotic reduced the inflammation, redness, and burning. Slowly my face became normal. For me, this was nothing short of a miracle! Dr. Evans certainly made the right call.
SoCo: It’s shocking when you try to fix something and it gets worse. What was the cause of this extreme flare?
S.S.: The cause seemed to point to a reaction to something I was using on my face, perhaps even ingredients in the medical creams. As I healed, Dr. Evans did more extensive patch testing, which revealed I was reacting to some new irritants. These substances are not always easy to identify in products and often cross-react with other substances so it can become almost impossible to trace.
SoCo: Reacting to so many things makes it hard to know what to do especially when you’re developing new sensitivities over time. It can stop you from trying anything out of fear. How did you move forward?
S.S.: Dr. Evans kept it simple and now has me using only one prescription non-steroidal cream on my face, which has been outstanding. I’ve had perfect skin since mid-February (2016)—an unbelievable experience for me! I’m not allowed to use anything on my face unless I patch test it first for one week. I’ve been testing some of the products I used previously. Although they seem safe, I have not yet had the courage to take a chance on vanity. My new beauty routine of only one cream and no makeup, except for eyes and lips, has been very liberating. I’m so grateful in so many ways.
SoCo: It takes real persistence to keep investigating when all typical avenues are being explored, when you have a moving target, so to speak. Some doctors can even blame the patient when he or she is very sensitive and nothing seems to work.
S.S.: Since the first day I met her, Dr. Evans has always been so professional, knowledgeable, and inquisitive. She’s willing to think outside the box and go the extra mile and has always spent time explaining conditions and addressing my many questions and concerns. She always listened carefully when we discussed my symptoms and she understood the frustration I felt with how my issues disrupted my life. Although my problems always seemed to be mysterious, Dr. Evans never gave up and tirelessly tried to find the cause so we could stop the endless cycle of treatment creams that only gave temporary relief.
SoCo: That’s the key, right? Getting at the underlying cause and not settling for temporary, ‘Band-Aid solutions.’ Obviously, this approach has made you a patient of Dr. Evans for a long time. What other qualities does she possess that have enabled you to build such a strong doctor-patient relationship?
S.S.: Dr. Evans is a very warm, kind, sensitive, friendly, and compassionate person who truly cares for her patients and does everything possible—no matter what it takes—to help her patients regain their health. She has always been there for me and it’s been twenty-two years! I feel so lucky, fortunate, and blessed to have such a wonderful doctor who never gave up on me.
SoCo: That’s great! We wish you smooth sailing going forward!
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