Eczema is a condition characterized by inflammation of the skin that is usually associated with blisters, red bumps, swelling, oozing, scaling, crusting, and itching.
There are various types of eczema. They include contact eczema, which is characterized by sharp demarcations where substances such as direct irritants, allergy-causing agents, chemicals, certain perfumes, and/or light exposure contact the skin to create a rash; and atopic eczema, which occurs primarily in people with family histories of allergy, vitamin B12 problems, asthma, and allergic respiratory problems such as hay fever. In infants two to eighteen months old, atopic eczema can cause weeping and crusty, red spots on the face, scalp, and extremities. In older children and adults it may be more localized and chronic. It may subside by three to four years and may reoccur in adolescence or adulthood.
Other forms of eczema include seborrheic eczema, which primarily occurs on the scalp, face, and chest; nummular eczema, which is characterized by coin-shaped chronic red spots with crusting and scaling and normally occurs after the age of 35 and is often related to emotional stress and, in winter, to dry skin; chronic eczema, which occurs in hands or feet, and which can get very severe; generalized eczema, which is characterized by widespread inflammation over much of the skin; stasis eczema, which occurs in the lower legs and is associated with poor venous return of the blood and a tendency of the skin to turn brownish; localized scratch eczema, which occurs in specific patches, often with whitish areas that are well demarcated by areas of increased pigmentation or colour, such as the arms, legs, ankles, and around the genitals, and is made worse by stress and scratching. Localized scratch eczema is much more frequent in women between 20 and 50 years of age.
The symptoms of atopic eczema may always be present and can cause your skin to become:
During a flare-up, your skin may be:
- extremely itchy, red, hot, dry and scaly
- wet, weeping and swollen
- infected with bacteria, usually Staphylococcus aureus.
The symptoms of atopic eczema vary according to how severely you or your child are affected by the condition. People with mild atopic eczema normally have only small areas of dry skin, which are occasionally itchy. In more severe cases, atopic eczema can cause widespread dry skin, constant itching and oozing fluid. Scratching can disrupt your sleep and make your skin bleed. It can also make itching worse, and a cycle of itching and regular scratching may develop. In children, this can lead to sleepless nights and difficulty concentrating at school.
Atopic eczema can occur in small patches all over the body. It is most common:
- in infants: on the face and scalp, and on the outer surface of the arms and legs
- in children: around joints on the arms and legs, such as the folds of the elbows or the backs of the knees
- in adults: in the joints, such as inside the elbows or the backs of the knees, and on the hands
There is no single cause of eczema – but a mixture of inherited and environmental causes that act together at different times.
You may be born with an increased likelihood of developing eczema, which you inherit from your parents. When you are exposed to environmental factors, such as dust or pollen, this causes eczema to appear.
There are also several triggers, which can make your symptoms worse.
Research suggests that atopic eczema is largely an inherited condition. This means that the cause lies in the genes that you inherit from your parents. If a child’s parents have atopic eczema, it is highly likely that the child will also develop the condition. Studies have shown that 60% of children who have a parent with atopic eczema also have the condition. If both parents have atopic eczema, there is an 80% chance that a child will also have the condition.
It is not yet known exactly which genes are responsible for eczema, although a protein called filaggrin is involved. Filaggrin attaches to a tough substance called keratin in cells and, along with other structures, forms a barrier at the skin’s surface. If there is a problem with your filaggrin, the skin barrier can no longer provide effective protection from the environment.
There may be a problem with your filaggrin if you have inherited a defect in the gene responsible for making filaggrin. In this case, you have a higher risk of developing atopic eczema. The filaggrin gene may account for up to one in five cases of eczema. Other genes responsible for skin inflammation may also be responsible.
If your genes make you more likely to develop atopic eczema, the condition will develop after you are exposed to certain environmental factors, such as allergens.
Allergens are substances that can cause the body to react abnormally. This is known as an allergic reaction. Some of the most common allergens that can cause atopic eczema include:
- house dust mites
- pet fur
Atopic eczema can sometimes be caused by food allergens, especially in the first year of life. Foods that typically cause allergic reactions include:
- cows’ milk
Some studies of children and young people with atopic eczema found that one-third to nearly two-thirds also had a food allergy. Having a food allergy increases the likelihood of your atopic eczema being severe. Allergies do not appear to play a role in many people with eczema. Other non-allergic factors may be just as important in bringing out eczema in someone who is likely to get it. These factors could include:
- cold weather
- harsh soaps
- washing too much
- rough clothing
Triggers can make atopic eczema worse, although they may not cause the condition.
Hormonal changes in women
Hormones are powerful chemicals that are produced by the body and have a wide range of effects. Changes in the levels of certain hormones can affect the symptoms of atopic eczema in some women. Many women’s eczema is worse at certain times during their menstrual cycle. Some women have a flare-up of their eczema in the days before their period.
Pregnancy, which causes hormonal changes, can also affect atopic eczema:
- More than half of all pregnant women find their symptoms get worse.
- One-quarter of pregnant women find their symptoms improve.
While stress is known to be associated with atopic eczema, it is not fully understood how it affects the condition. Some people with eczema have worse symptoms when they are stressed. For other people, their symptoms cause them to feel stressed.
See the Health A-Z topic about Stress for more information and ways to manage stress.
After vigorous exercise, sweating may make your eczema symptoms worse. Try to keep cool when you are exercising by drinking plenty of fluids and taking regular breaks.
Irritants can make your symptoms worse. What irritates you may be different to what irritates someone else with the condition, but could include:
- soaps and detergents, such as shampoo, washing-up liquid or bubble bath
- some types of clothing, especially wool and nylon
- very cold, dry weather
- unfamiliar pets
Other possible triggers include:
- substances that touch your skin – such as perfume-based products or latex (a type of naturally occurring rubber)
- some food products – such as fish, peanuts and kiwi fruit, which can make your symptoms worse, although this does not mean you are allergic to them
- environmental factors – such as tobacco smoke, living near a busy road or having water that contains lots of minerals (hard water)
- the changing seasons – most people with atopic eczema find that their symptoms improve during the summer and get worse in the winter.
Eczema is often called Dermatitis, and may be a symptom of an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency, allergies secondary to digestive disorders such as hydrochloric acid deficiency, rashes secondary to immune diseases, genetic metabolic disorders, and/or nutritional deficiencies, especially of niacin (vitamin B3) and B6, as well as other B vitamins. To minimize your risk of developing eczema, avoid irritating substances, wear natural non-irritating materials, use soothing ointments, and check to see if dietary, nutritional, and/or and allergy-causing factors need to be considered.
Prescription and non-prescription medication:
We know that when the body is out of balance, energy doesn’t flow, leading blockages and eventually dis-ease. Here are some things you can do to combat stress and restore balance:
- Go to a Dr Morter BEST (Bio-Energetic Synchronisation Technique) Practitioner.
- Sign up for Energetic Re-Balancing: 2 practitioners to consider are:
- Stephen Lewis, founder of the Aim Program. Find out more by clicking here.
- . Find out more by clicking here.
- Consider using Mary Millers Iching System Products – ichingsystemsinstruments.com
- Reiki healing is very powerful in releasing stress and emotional baggage. Find a practitioner here.
- Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) has had remarkable results in dissolving stress. Find a local practitioner here (link) or go to www.thetappingsolution.com orwww.tftrx.com
- Try Hypnotherapy to relax the mind. Find a practitioner here.
- Alphabiotics www.alphabiotics.biz
Natural cure for eczema: www.getbest.info/natural-cure-for-eczema/
Getting to the root of asthma: drbenkim.com/articles-eczema.html
Eczema – Natural healing: eczema-natural-healing.com/eczema-remedies.html
EFT Cures Eczema: www.eftmastersworldwide.com/content/eft-clears-eczema/
Two cheap natural cures for eczema: billlorrette.hubpages.com/hub/Eczema-Natural-Remedies-For-You
Acupuncture for Eczema: www.youtube.com/watch?v=78Q-Uu0A7DI
Ayurvedic home remedies for eczema: www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_gPQBYJqVc
Chinese Medicine eases Eczema: news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7291783.stm and http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/141238.php
Acupuncture and easing the itch of eczema: www.reuters.com/article/2009/12/22/us-acupuncture-ease-itch-eczema-idUSTRE5BL3J320091222
Further Information (links and books)
The Skin Cure Diet: Heal Eczema from Inside Out, Kathleen Waterford; Eczema – Natural Ways, Sheena Meredith; Natural Foods that reverse Eczema by Linda Jordan; Natural Remedies for Eczema: What Works and Why, Jeffrey Fisher.
GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) Evening primrose oil
www.barleans.com (800) 445-3529
Rescue Remedy®, Bach Flower Essences
www.caycecures.com (800) 862-2923
www.longevityplus.com (800) 580-7587
Vitamin B complex, Total B Liquid Sublingual Formula
Magnesium, Magnesium oxide powder
www.lef.org (800) 678-8989
Zinc, Zinc Food Complex
www.newchapter.com (800) 543-7279
Andrea Butje | Aromahead [email protected] – aromatherapy
Carrie Vitt [email protected] – organic food recipes.
David Spector-NSR/USA [email protected] – meditation, stress
judith hoad [email protected] – herbalist.
Kath May [email protected] – reiki, tai chi.
Lillian Bridges [email protected] – Chinese medicine, living naturally.
Monika [email protected] – aromatherapy.
Rakesh [email protected] – Ayurvedic Practitioner.