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Eczema: Causes & Treatment Options
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Eczema: Causes & Treatment Options

 

 

Eczema is a common skin disorder that affects one in twelve adults and one in five children. Symptoms might vary from a mild rash that disappears quite rapidly to a more severe condition that persists for a long time. However, living with eczema can be distressing, whether you get it a few times during a year or deal with it on a daily basis. While there is no cure at present, there are things you can do to help manage the symptoms. Here are a few tips on how to cope with eczema.

 

What Is Eczema?

 

Eczema is a non-contagious, inflammatory skin condition, noted by dry, pruritus (itch) and red skin. It is a common, complex and long-term disease that reoccurs and appears due to an interaction between genes and the environment. Eczema affects both children and adults and varies in symptoms, types and intensity from one person to another.

 

What Causes Eczema?​

 

The exact cause is unknown, but what is evident is that eczema is not down to one single thing. Genetics, environment, immune system abnormalities and allergies can be responsible for the development of this condition.

 

  • Allergies. Atopic eczema often occurs in people that get allergies. "Atopic" means sensitivity to allergens. Food allergies can play an essential part in eczema development, especially in young children.

  • Genetics. It can run in families and usually develops alongside other conditions, such as hay fever or asthma. 

  • The symptoms of atopic eczema typically have certain triggers, such as stress, soaps, detergents and the weather.

 

Individuals with atopic eczema often have dehydrated skin because their skin is unable to retain a lot of moisture. This dryness can make the skin more likely to react to specific triggers, causing it to become itchy and sore.

 

Other triggers of eczema

 

Several things can also lead to your eczema symptoms, which can vary from person to person.

 

  • Environmental factors - such as very dry or cold weather, dust mites, pollen, cigarette smoke and fur from pets.

  • Food allergies - such as eggs, cow's milk, peanuts, soy and wheat.

  • Irritants - such as soaps, shampoos, bubble baths, shower gel and washing detergents.

  • Diet - such as some dairy products and alcohol.

  • Hormonal changes - women can find their symptoms get worse in the days before their period or during pregnancy.

  • Skin infections and clothes worn next to the skin, such as wool. 

  • For some, if they are stressed, sweaty or in very dusty conditions, they may feel worse.

 

How Do You Treat Eczema?

 

Treatments for atopic eczema can relieve the symptoms. There is no cure, but most children find their symptoms improve with age. The main treatments for atopic eczema are:

 

  • Emollients (moisturisers) – used every day to prevent the skin from becoming dry;

  • Topical corticosteroids – these are steroid creams and ointments that act as an anti-inflammatory remedy used to reduce swelling and redness during flare-ups.

 

Other treatments include:

 

  • Topical pimecrolimus or tacrolimus if eczema in sensitive sites is not responding to more standard treatment;

  • Antihistamines can help with severe itching;

  • Bandages to allow the body to heal underneath;

  • More potent therapies offered by a dermatologist (skin specialist).

 

Medications

 

  1. Emollients

 

Emollients are moisturising treatments/creams applied directly to the skin to reduce water loss; therefore, address dry skin, and create a protective film on the surface. They can have a mild anti-inflammatory role along with treating the dry skin that accompanies eczema.

 

In mild eczema, a pharmacist can offer advice on emollients. If you have moderate or severe eczema, it is recommended to talk to your doctor.

 

Applying the emollient:

 

  • Use a large amount, and gently smooth it over the skin, do not rub it in.

  • After a shower or bath, pat the skin dry and apply the emollient while the skin is still moist this keeps the moisture in.

  • Use an emollient at least twice throughout a day or more often if you have dehydrated skin.

  • During a flare-up, make sure to apply generous amounts of emollient more frequently. You may also need to treat inflamed skin with a topical corticosteroid as emollients used on their own are not strong enough to handle the inflammation.

  • Do not stick your fingers into an emollient pot, use a spoon instead to reduce the risk of infection. Never share your emollient with other people.

  1. Topical corticosteroids

 

If you have sore, inflamed skin, a doctor can prescribe a topical corticosteroid (applied directly to your skin), which should reduce the inflammation within a few days.

 

Topical corticosteroids come in various strengths, (mild, moderate or strong), depending on the severity of your atopic eczema.

 

  • Mild - like hydrocortisone;

  • Moderate - such as betamethasone valerate and clobetasone butyrate;

  • Strong - such as a higher dose of betamethasone valerate and betamethasone diproprionate;

  • Potent corticosteroids such as clobetasol proprionate and diflucortolone valterate.

 

Regular use of these medicines will require regular doctor consultation to ensure the treatment is effective.

 

When using a topical corticosteroid:

 

  • Apply your emollient and wait about 30 minutes until it has soaked into your skin.

  • Apply the instructed amount of the topical corticosteroid to the area that is affected. Follow the doctor's or medicine's instructions.

  • Continue to use the cream until 48 hours after the flare-up has cleared, so the inflammation under the skin surface is treated.

 

Conservative treatment 

 

  1. CBD oil

 

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a natural compound and one of more than 100 active components found in Cannabis Sativa plants. It is known to provide its therapeutic benefits through the interaction with the complex, biological endocannabinoid system (ECS) responsible for crucial functions of the body such as stress, sleep, memory, immune response, inflammation, pain, etc. 

 

Positive effect on the ECS means that taking CBD products can help to relieve inflammation, pain and chronic aches, reduce anxiety and stress levels, improve focus and energy, promote better quality sleep and even alleviate different skin conditions, including eczema. 

 

Thanks to the potential CBD oil benefits and its ability to soothe skin irritation and inflammation, it can help to diminish the itch and redness of the skin. CBD might stimulate skin repair or maintain homeostasis to facilitate the symptoms associated with eczema. Additionally, the use of CBD can help to inhibit the bacterial colonisation of the skin for enhancing its appearance and manage stress, which can worsen atopic dermatitis. To experience the beneficial effects, you can intake a CBD infused oil, apply different topical products, use a CBD vape pen or consume capsules. 

 

  1. Self-care

 

There are certain things you can easily do at home to help ease the symptoms. Since the skin eventually thickens into leathery areas because of chronic scratching, try to reduce the damage from scratching, as this can damage the skin.

 

Also, there is a higher risk of infection from repeated scratching. Consider keeping your nails short and clean to reduce damage to the skin from scratching. Instead of scratching, try to gently rub your skin with your fingers. In case a baby has atopic eczema, anti-scratch mittens might stop them scratching.

 

Additionally, if you know what triggers the flare-ups, avoid that trigger if possible. Common triggers are certain fabric detergents when you identify the detergent causing eczema to worsen, avoid using it in the future. If heat makes it worse, avoid that if possible.

 

 

  1. Dietary changes

 

Dietary changes might also be needed as some foods, such as eggs and cows' milk can cause symptoms development. Also, since eczema is an inflammatory condition, it might be beneficial to include anti-inflammatory foods in your daily meal plan, such as fatty fish, apples, blueberries, broccoli, spinach, kale and kefir. However, do not make significant dietary changes without first speaking to your doctor. It may not be healthy or advisable for you to completely cut out these foods from your diet, especially in young children that need calcium, calories and protein from these foods.

 

If a doctor suspects a food allergy, you may be referred to a dietitian (a specialist in diet and nutrition) to assess your diet. Alternatively, you may be referred to an immunologist, dermatologist, or paediatrician, depending on your doctor's assessment of your condition and the triggers. In case you are breastfeeding a baby with atopic eczema, get medical advice before making any changes to your regular diet.




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