Healing From the Inside Out: Uncommon Eczema Treatments That Work
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Those who have eczema are often embarrassed and pained by their skin. The rough, dry patches and itching that makes you scratch until you bleed is common and uncomfortable.
Dealing with eczema is a tough physical and emotional battle. It's one that may include frequent trips to the dermatologist and prescriptions that don't work.
Nonetheless, eczema sufferers are tired of the suffering and ready to find a cure. Many are surprised to find that the answer is not in steroid creams or immunosuppressants.
It's actually in changing your diet and lifestyle.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is the name of a group of conditions that cause the skin to become red and inflamed. (1)
The different types of eczema are: (2)
Atopic dermatitis: This type of eczema is referred to as chronic and inflammatory. It typically begins in childhood and is often associated with other allergic conditions: hay fever and asthma.
Contact dermatitis: Touching or being exposed to an irritating substance/allergen can cause inflammation of the skin with this form of eczema.
Dyshidrotic eczema: This condition is characterized by the small, itchy blisters it creates on the fingers, toes, and palms. This form of eczema is more common in women and triggered by stress and certain metals.
Nummular eczema: Another common type of eczema, but it's characterized as the most difficult type to treat. People develop coin-shaped itchy patches on their skin that may be triggered by insect bites.
Seborrheic dermatitis: This type of eczema usually occurs on the scalp, upper back and nose. It is likely triggered by hormonal/genetic changes.
Stasis dermatitis: Occurs when there are issues with blood flow in the veins. Pressure develops and fluid leaks into the skin causing itchiness and scales.
It's a disease that's actually fairly common among both adults and children. In fact, almost 30 million Americans have some form of eczema, but everyone experiences it differently.
Some flare-ups are mild and barely noticeable, whereas others are more severe.
However, no matter the severity level, it is still a very annoying circumstance. Nonetheless, many healthcare professionals deem eczema fairly manageable, but not curable.
Sufferers are overwhelmed by this fact and also troubled by not always knowing what triggers it.
Eczema and Children
Parents that have an infant and/or child with eczema are often devastated when they've tried everything to relieve their child of the symptoms.
However, it's important not to give up and to stay alert to any skin changes. Children are more susceptible of developing bacterial skin infections, known as impetigo.(3)
If the skin is more red than usual and has honey-colored fluid coming from the rash, it is encouraged that you contact a physician.
The good news is that eczema usually improves during childhood and into adulthood. While they may always deal with dry skin, it may not be as severe as before.
Eczema and its symptoms are different for everyone and it's not always predictable. One person may have breakouts that take place in one generalized area whereas it may affect another person's entire body.
Sufferers that have had eczema since childhood may also find that the dry patches show up in new areas of the body in adulthood. These dry patches are extremely irritating because they're itchy.
Sometimes the itchiness is so severe that people scratch them until it bleeds, which ultimately makes the condition worse.
Other symptoms characteristic of eczema are: (4)
Dark colored patches of skin
Leathery or scaly patches of skin
Oozing or crusting
Swelling of affected areas
The Causes and Triggers
Although the exact cause of eczema is unknown, researchers believe that it's a combination of genes and lifestyle choices. Those with eczema typically have an overactive immune system.
As a result, certain internal and external substances may cause the body to respond by producing inflammation.
Research also suggests that eczema sufferers have a gene mutation that results in poor creation of filaggrin.
Filaggrin is a protein that assists our body in maintaining a healthy protective barrier on the very top layer of the skin. Having too little filaggrin results in infection-prone, dry skin.
However, some individuals that have had eczema for a while may notice that certain things trigger their disease.
For instance, some lotions and perfumes can cause an eczema sufferers' skin to burn and itch upon application. Others may notice that their skin flares up more during stressful times.
Persons with eczema know that the key to treatment is determining the root cause and aiming to prevent it. Once a flare-up occurs, the stress of having it can make one break out even more.
To avoid it, eczema sufferers should keep track of their triggers, and bathe and moisturize the body routinely.
Some people use special over-the-counter products and medications specifically for eczema to help with their symptoms.
In more severe cases, eczema may have to be treated by a dermatologist. A dermatologist will choose between prescription topicals, phototherapy, biologics, and systemic medications.
The most common treatment is prescription topicals. Prescription topicals usually contain steroids and are to be applied directly to the affected area. This treatment almost immediately helps with dryness, rashes, and itching.
Phototherapy is often used for those who have eczema all over the body or who are not responding well to prescription topicals.
For this treatment, individuals go into a machine that uses narrowband ultraviolet B light. The results are typically not immediate and require about 1-2 months of routine visits to work.
Those with moderate to severe eczema may be placed on a systemic medication to prevent the immune system from overreacting.
These drugs are taken as either tablets or injections so it can travel the bloodstream and treat the entire body.
Biologic drugs are unique, in that they are genetically engineered. These medications include proteins that are obtained from living tissues or cells cultured in a lab.
They are supposed to treat specific conditions at the immune system level, and are taken through the skin or through the vein.
Natural Alternatives to Treating Eczema
For many, the aforementioned treatments simply don't work for them or they're unwilling to try them due to the risks involved. As a result, individuals have turned to natural remedies to treat their eczema.
Tea Tree Oil For Eczema
Tea tree oil is an essential oil that is native to Australia and steam distilled from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree. (5)
Eczema sufferers that have exhausted all traditional methods of treating eczema still have hope. Tea tree oil has been used for several years and studies even point to its effectiveness.
It is especially useful for eczema because of the following: (6)
Tea tree oil contains terpinen-4-ol, which is an antibacterial agent that stops infection from spreading.
Its anti-inflammatory properties reduces redness on the skin.
The oil easily penetrates into the skin, which alleviates itching.
Antioxidants in tea tree oil protect the skin from free radicals. It also fixes the skin that has been damaged.
As an antiseptic, it protects the skin from infection.
It makes the skin smoother and softer.
The Elimination Diet
As previously mentioned, many eczema sufferers have flare-ups after coming in contact with an irritant or allergen. One of the most common but overlooked triggers is a food allergy.
It is determined that eight foods account for 90% of all food allergies. (7)
Those foods include:
It is suggested that individuals stop eating the above foods for three weeks and to keep a notebook around to track how they feel. Once the three weeks are up, the individual can slowly start adding back one food group at a time and record any symptoms, like skin inflammation.
If the symptoms return after consuming a certain food, then consider ultimately removing it from your diet. The goal is to normalize gut flora so it can improve the overall health of the immune system.
Those that don't have an allergy to coconut oil may find it extremely beneficial in treating eczema symptoms. Using just a little coconut oil on the skin can ease the itching and pain, and promote moisture. (8)
Sea Spray and Magnesium Baths
For those that have oozing rashes, consider using sea spray. The vitamin D, magnesium, and minerals in the water dries the skin out. (9) For some, this is more helpful than adding various lotions and creams.
To try a magnesium bath, just fill the bathtub with water as usual and add magnesium flakes or Epsom salt.
There Are Natural Options
For eczema sufferers that are sick and tired of being sick and tired, consider the natural options mentioned above. The true healing is in working from the inside out.
Restoring needed nutrients required to maintain a strong immune system can improve the lives of eczema sufferers. After all, you deserve to be comfortable in the skin you're in.
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