Skin diseases affect around 1/3rd of the world population (1.9 billion people at a given time). Skin diseases can be infectious, cancerous, inflammatory, degenerative, or congenital. These figures are likely to increase in the future causing an economic burden on the health budgets of many countries.
Discussing skin diseases just in one article is not possible as there is so much information to share. So, in this blog, I’ll be discussing one of the most common skin issues – ECZEMA.
Eczema is a group of skin disorders that causes skin inflammation, swelling, redness, dryness, thickening, cracking, and even oozing and bleeding. Eczema is a broader term & dermatitis is more specific. Eczema can be commonly used to refer to Atopic dermatitis.
Eczema affects about 25% of children worldwide and about 2-4% of adults. Children with Eczema are more prone to develop allergies, asthma, and hay fever. An article published in BBC states that 50-70% of children with atopic dermatitis (severe allergic skin problems) subsequently develop asthma!
According to allergy.co.nz, over 1/3rd of New Zealanders suffer from an allergy-related issue and costs more than $5 billion per annum. Skin Infections are the major causes of hospitalization in N.Z. children.
The exact cause of Eczema is not clear, but common causes include:
Stress (according to a study done in the U.S. in 2012 found a striking association between atopic dermatitis & mental health disorders).
Decreased immunity – because of – autoimmune disorders or poor gut health or nutritional deficiency.
Types of Eczema: There are various types of Eczema, I’m listing down the commonly occurring ones :
Atopic Eczema (A.D.) – Chronic, relapsing, and inflammatory skin condition, and it affects about 15-20% of children worldwide. The incidence of A.D. has increase 2-3 folds in the developed nations. It’s the most common skin disorder in children and is commonly presented by 5yrs of age. The main symptoms of A.D. include Intense Itchiness, redness, rash, and in the long term, the skin becomes cracked and thickened.
Allergic contact dermatitis – A form of Eczema which is triggered by coming in contact with a particular object. For e.g., Eczema caused by wearing a metal earring.
Irritant Dermatitis – Acute allergic response to an irritant like detergent etc.
Seborrheic Dermatitis – Chronic skin condition where sebaceous or oil producing glands are inflamed including the scalp, face and chest. Males are more affected than females. Example – cradle cap in infants.
Venous Dermatitis – It occurs because of stasis or blood pooling from insufficient venous return. The skin becomes brown, tissue like with possible skin lesions, red spots, darkening & thickening of skin of ankles/legs.
Nummular Dermatitis – Coin shaped skin rashes with intense itch.
Dyshidrotic Dermatitis – Foot-and-hand Eczema –tiny, intensely itchy blisters on the edges of fingers, toes, palms, and soles of the feet.
Neurodermal Dermatitis – also known as lichen simplex chronicus – it’s a type of dermatitis where a thickened, intensely itchy patch of Eczema is formed because of habitual itching and scratching.
Eczema is not curable but sometimes the children outgrow it.
The main treatment options for Eczema in the conventional or allopathic system of therapeutics are:
Corticosteroids – topical ointment & creams.
Phototherapy – light that uses A or B light which can be effective in mild to moderate dermatitis for people older than 12 yrs. However, side effects include skin aging and skin cancer.
Systemic corticosteroids – most common one being prednisone. The side effects include skin damage, thin/weak bones, high B.P., high blood sugar, infections and cataracts.
Immune suppressants – when drugs like methotrexate are used to decrease the immunity of the body, the body’s ability to fight with any kind of infection is decreased and so is the ability for tissue repair.
Holistic Systems of therapeutics believes that the human body is capable of healing on its own, and stimulation to vital force is enough to help the body heal by itself. The Eruptions or rashes on the skin are actually manifestations of the imbalances going inside the body. Therefore, to heal Eczema, it’s important to treat the person as a whole and treat the causative factors and not suppress the symptoms like an itch.
There are various effective natural treatment options available, which could be tremendously helpful in relieving the symptoms of skin diseases like Eczema.
I’m listing down the Natural or unconventional or Alternative therapies which could be helpful for Eczema or dermatitis:
HOMEOPATHY: This form of treatment is far gentle and sustainable than any of the conventional treatment options available. Homeopathy works on the law of similar and believes in treating the person as a whole yet maintaining the individuality.
I’m listing down top 5 homeopathic remedies which have shown excellent results in treating Eczema:
Sulphur – This remedy is indicated when there is intense itching and a strong desire to scratch, but scratching leads to bleeding. Helpful for felons, abscess, boils, and old fistulous ulcers. Delicate, pale, and wary skin. Unhealthy skin, every little injury suppurates. The skin has a dirty appearance with discharge, which is offensive and smells like an egg—messy and lazy individuals who are thin, weak, and philosophical. Itching is marked, which is aggravated by scratching and washing the skin—a great Antipsoric remedy whose action is centrifugal.
Graphitis – Especially indicated in people who are stout, fair, chilly, and tendency to skin infections and constipation. Rough skin and oozing a glutinous fluid with little perspiration. Eczema behind the ears, sometimes with pain .Eruptions ooze a sticky exudation. Eczema leads to asthma, especially when suppressed by steroid creams. Aggravation by warmth, at night during and after menstruation. Relief by cold and in the dark.
Psorinum – Antipsoric remedy. Suited to a sensitive and cold person who is debilitated, sad, anxious, and depressed. Profuse sweating, offensive discharges with marked Offensiveness. Oily skin, Skin conditions have intense itching, herpetic eruptions, especially of scalp & bends of joints with itching and aggravation from the warmth of the bed, coffee, cold.
Petroleum – Especially suited to dark skin people who have marked skin conditions, especially sweat and oil glands being affected. Ailments during winters. Low spirited people with dry, very sensitive, rough, leathery, and cracked skin—itching at night, vesicular eruptions of skin which form thick scabs and oozes pus. Slightest scratch leads to suppuration. Aggravation during winters, mental exertion, dampness. Relief with warmth, dry weather.
Rhus Tox – Intense itching with red, swollen skin. Indicated in urticaria, erysipelas, cellulitis. Rhus Tox has a marked action on skin, it produces erythema, the eruptions are red and angry looking. It is indicated in Eczema where there is intense itching and frequent oozing. Small blisters that break on scratching and ooze a watery fluid. Rash on arms, hands or genitals. Indicated in cellulitis where the skin is dark, red and inflammation travels from left to right. Aggravation of symptoms by cold, rest, wet rainy weather, Relief by dry weather and motion.
Homeopathic ointments like – Sulphur, Graphitis, Petroleum, Urtica urens ointments are known to help with the symptoms of Eczema.
NATUROPATHY – While conventional or modern medicine believes in suppressing the symptoms of Eczema, the naturopathic approach focuses on helping restore the imbalances going inside the body. The herbs and supplements focus on cleansing and cooling the body in order to help in skin ailments such as Eczema.
The oils /ointments which can help in Eczema are:
Coconut oil (it not only sooths, relieves itching and is also antibacterial and antifungal. Some natural practitioners also recommend adding a pinch of camphor to coconut oil and applying it as a pack at nigh but it’s advisable to consult a practicing naturopath before proceeding.
Aloe Vera – The pulp of Aloe Vera leaves has been used on skin since ancient times with no adverse effects and only benefits however, more research should be done to know about its more amazing health benefits.
Chick wee (Stellaria media) – Ointment made from this plant or infused oil added to the bathwater can help relieve irritation and heal lesions.
Ground Oatmeal or Avena Sativa – colloidal oat extracts exhibit direct anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, which may help in relieving the symptoms of Eczema or dermatitis.
Topical Vit B12 – According to a study published in 2009, patients with Eczema showed improvement when treated with topical Vit B12 application (Vit B12/cyanocobalamin + avocado oil + water + emulsifier + citric acid).
Along with the Homeopathic remedies and topical applications, it’s important to understand that Eczema or dermatitis have a strong connection with Mind – In Europe, some doctors practice Psychodermatology to help patients with mental anxiety, depression or emotional disturbances.
PROBIOTICS – According to Ayurveda – (the ancient Indian science of Life) – gut health is of utmost importance in maintaining optimal health. Research published in 2019, states that “The human microbiome is a collection of the microbial flora of at least 10,000 species accounting for 90% of our cell mass” – These bacterial flora helps subside inflammation. More and more researches are being done now the area of these friendly gut bacterias. As Eczema or psoriasis both involve inflammation, the probiotics or the good bacteria can help reduce inflammation in many ways.
Probiotics Lactobacillus rhamnosus, B. Infantis, Bifidobacterium lactis, and Lactobacillus acidophilus probiotics have shown many positive results in the treatment of Eczema.
Natural probiotics like Yogurt (what better if its homemade), kefir, suerkaut, tempeh, miso should be used in the everyday diet in order to keep up gut healthy.
Eczema is a skin condition that needs continuous life long care like not having a bath in too hot water (just lukewarm), always keeping skin moisturized, preferably with natural oils or cocoa butter, avoiding scratching and leading a happy & healthy life!
Natural medicines (like Homeopathy, Naturopathy), Diet, Probiotics, and yoga should be our first choice to deal with any chronic or acute condition. But no system of medicine is yet complete, and we all need to collaborate and integrate for the betterment of our patients.