Eczema, also known as ectopic dermatitis, is a non-contagious inflammation of the skin, which produces redness, fine blisters, dryness, and itchiness. It can start very early in life, even with nursing babies, but can also affect people of all ages.
The exact mechanism of eczema is still not fully understood, however, it touches the immune system and the skin cells which act as a barrier against allergens.
There is a hereditary component to eczema. If one parent has skin or breathing sensitivities, their children will have a 30% risk of developing the disease. If both parents have the problem the chances for their children to develop the disease increases to 80%. Other environmental factors such as pollution and chemical additives play a role as well, as recent estimates report that cases of eczema have doubled or perhaps tripled in the last 30 years.
Although eczema has a strong genetic component, numerous factors can also worsen the condition.
If you or someone you know suffers from eczema, it is important to search for certain aggravating factors.
These factors can be extremely variable from one person to the next, so it is not always easy to find.
- First, be careful with contact on the skin from wool, synthetic fibers, soaps and detergents, perfumes, cosmetics, sand, cigarette smoke, etc.
- Hot and humid weather can provoke eczema, but overly dry conditions, like most homes in the middle of winter, can also be a problem.
- Try not to wet and dry your skin frequently.
- Emotional factors, such as anxiety, conflicts in relationships, and stress can also make the condition worse.
- Allergens from foods, plants, animals, or the air can also be risk factors to think about. The most likely food allergens are: peanuts, nuts and seeds, milk, wheat, egg whites, fish and seafood, chocolate, and soy.
If you suffer from eczema it is also very important to take good care of you skin.
Some general advice would be:
- Try not to scratch the areas with eczema because it only intensifies the itchiness and irritates the skin.
- For kids, it is important to keep their nails short.
- For babies, you may even want to have them wear cotton gloves at night.
- Be sure to use mild soaps and don’t use very hot water for showers or baths.
- Use a mild detergent to wash your clothes as well.
In western medicine, there is no treatment to cure eczema. The classic treatments are essentially to reduce the inflammation and discomfort that eczema causes. Corticosteroids (cortisone) are often recommended as they reduce the itchiness and the inflammation. These can only be used for a short period of time as they lose their effectiveness and can thin the skin.
This medicine only treats the symptoms and does nothing to get at the root of the problem.
Psychotherapeutic approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy can help with any possible emotional or psychological factors as well.
Acupuncture can help on many levels with eczema.
In Chinese medicine, eczema is often linked with a weakness of the Lung meridian. At first this seems fairly strange, however, there is a body of evidence showing that eczema and asthma in children are often linked. In fact, often when children are treated for eczema with cortisone, asthma conditions appear or worsen.
If we think of the skin as being our largest organ of respiration through perspiration of the pores, we can start to at least begin to understand the correlation between skin diseases and the Lung meridian.
The aim then is to help clear the skin by boosting the Lung meridian and the immune system, thus treating the root of the problem and not simply the symptoms. By strengthening the immune system, the body has better control over various external allergens as well. Finally, acupuncture can help the body to better resist stress and can aid with emotional factors. Along with a healthy dose of prevention and proper skin care, acupuncture can make a big difference in the health of your skin.