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Eczema: Characteristics, Causes & Treatment

Eczema: Characteristics, Causes & Treatment

Eczema

What is Eczema?

Itchy, inflamed skin, scratches appearing out of nowhere and red rashes, you may have eczema. Eczema is a common skin problem that, thankfully, isn’t contagious. Contrary to some common beliefs, eczema isn’t an infection. Instead, it is a hypersensitivity to environmental triggers, which causes itchy skin, often covered with scaly dry patches. Triggers can be anything from laundry detergent to dyes, soaps, pollen or fabrics. Although the terms eczema and atopic dermatitis are interchangeable, atopic dermatitis (AD) is chronic, severe eczema. (x)

Over 30 percent of Americans have eczema. (x) It starts as early as infancy and may last until adulthood. In summary, if you have had eczema, you notice that it tends to come and go as far as fluctuations. For some people, it flares up but then fades for months or years. Some of those with eczema as children will also have it as adults, but others will “grow out” of it.

Although eczema and atopic dermatitis aren’t infections, they can lead to infections because the itching is so intense that people often break the skin with their fingernails, thus leading to conditions of the epidermis — the skin. (x)

Eczema is one of three disorders called the atopic triad — the tendency for hay fever, eczema and allergic asthma (x) — to occur together. If you have an atopic allergy, usually, you are hypersensitive to dander, dust mites, pollen, certain foods or environmental pollutants, as well as some kinds of fabric, soaps, dyes and chemicals.

Causes of Eczema and Atopic Dermatitis

Eczema stems from a genetic flaw that reduces or inhibits the body’s production of filaggrin, (x) a protein that uses keratin to form a rigid barrier-like structure in skin cells. (x) People with atopic dermatitis may lack the correct amount or correct type of filaggrin, which can cause irritants and allergens to enter the skin much more deeply than they usually would. (x)

Symptoms of Eczema

Eczema’s symptoms vary from person to person. It often shows up as itchy skin with no sign of rashes at first. Other common signs of eczema include:

  • Red, inflamed or swollen skin
  • Dry, easily irritated skin
  • Intense itching
  • Patches of dark skin
  • Leathery, scaly patches of skin (lichenified skin)
  • Scaly skin
  • Itchy red dots on the legs
  • Itchy forearms
  • Red raised bumps on the inner elbow

Red Skin Syndrome Symptoms

Often mistaken for eczema, red skin syndrome (RSS) is a reaction to steroidal treatment for eczema and other itchy skin conditions. (x) Extended use of topical corticosteroid treatments can lead to burning, red stinging skin. The rash starts at the area where you applied steroid creams the most and often spreads across the body. RSS mimics eczema at first but develops into a more severe and systemic condition. (x)

How to Tell If Your Baby Has Eczema

Babies will get a red rash on their cheeks and scalps, while older children may have it in skin folds in the knees and elbows. A baby with eczema may vigorously squirm when held or placed in their cribs. The rash will be present on the tops of the buttocks and will lack the puffiness associated with a diaper rash.

Locations of Eczema and Psoriasis

Eyelid dermatitis symptoms include swelling, itching, pain or burning sensation, thickened skin, red rash and irritated scaly skin. Xerotic eczema, also known as asteatotic eczema, appears on your lower legs and in the armpits. Dyshidrotic eczema affects your hands and feet. It seems to be triggered by exposure to nickel in foods. (x)

Psoriasis on your hands and feet (HFP) is inconvenient to live with, given that your hands and feet are constantly in contact with surfaces, which keeps the irritated skin raw. Products that contain coal tar, including creams and gels, can ease itching. Salicylic acid can reduce the thick, itchy scales of psoriasis as well. Combinations of these treatments often work better than one treatment alone.

Penile and scrotal eczema symptoms are the same as eczema in general. Treating penile and scrotal eczema involves identifying and eliminating irritants like laundry detergent or fabrics that trigger the condition. Using topical corticosteroids can bring you relief from itching. (x)

Eczema in the ear canal (aural eczematoid dermatitis) can produce symptoms such as scaly skin inside your ear canal and around the ear, redness and swelling, clear discharge from the ear and itchiness in and around the ear canal.

The Differences Between Eczema and Psoriasis

Psoriasis and eczema aren’t the same conditions. In fact, children and adults can have either psoriasis or eczema, or both at the same time. The hallmark sign of psoriasis is thick patches of skin covered in whitish or silvery scales. (x) While both conditions can produce red, cracked, scaly skin, only psoriasis causes white or silver scales. The thick clumps of skin in psoriasis are plaques. (x) (x)

Psoriasis is an auto-immune disorder that leads to the overactive production of skin cells. (x) Psoriasis shows well-defined silvery scaly patches that appear in the “bend” areas of your body, including knees and elbows. The scalp, face and buttocks become infected as well. Psoriasis causes mild-to-moderate itching, whereas eczema provokes intense itching, leading a person to make deep scratches into the dermis — the skin.

Psoriasis and eczema are both skin disorders roughly characterized as skin inflammation, but they are not the same condition. Neither will develop into the other, although sometimes eczema and psoriasis will occur at the same time.

Both severe eczema and psoriasis can lead to infection because of scratching inflamed skin prone to cracking and bleeding.

Eczema and Food Sensitivity

Eczema can be triggered by certain foods. (x) Food sensitivity varies widely from person to person. Delayed reactions usually occur by six to 24 hours. Some foods to avoid when you have eczema include:

  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Citrus fruits
  • Wheat
  • Gluten
  • Soy
  • Tomatoes
  • Cloves, cinnamon and other spices

Some people with eczema may eat some of the above foods, but others may eat none of them without suffering a flare-up.

What causes eczema around the eyes? Usually exposure to an irritant. Irritants include makeup, eye drops, contact lens solution, false eyelashes, airborne allergies and chlorine in swimming pools.

Treatment and Management of Eczema

Medicos say you cannot cure eczema, but you can treat it. The first step in treating it is reducing its incidence. Identify any foods in your diet that are associated with outbreaks or worsening of the condition. Also, try to identify anything like laundry detergents or laundry additives that may cause an adverse reaction. After removing or reducing everything in your environment that’s aggravating eczema, you must control the itching. (x) Some more solutions: 

  1. Control the Itch

Being told and knowing you must stop scratching your eczema is better said than actually doing it. Talk with your caregiver about using some of these remedies that should help: 

  1. Barrier Creams for Eczema 

Choose barrier creams instead of lotions. Barrier creams are thick and often say “skin healing” on the label. These creams can be expensive, and petroleum jelly can work just as well. The goal of heavy barrier creams or petroleum jelly is two-fold; the cream keeps moisture while preventing the irritant that’s causing the itch from reaching your tender skin. (x)

  1. Bathing

Keeping dry, irritated skin moist and refreshed gives you immediate relief. Avoid hot showers. Instead, have a bath or shower in lukewarm to warm water. You can add vinegar, salt, colloidal oatmeal, fine powder of oat grain or Avena sativa (x) or baking soda to your bathwater. Use non-soap cleansers only. (x

  1. Moisturizing

Dry skin causes eczema flares. Choose a moisturizing hand cream that’s advertised explicitly for treating this condition. Lotions and creams made specifically for this condition tend to have no harsh ingredients and no powerful fragrances. Fragrance and lots of additives can make irritated skin even worse. (x)

  1. Prescription Topical Applications

Keeping eczema under control means coordinating with a dermatologist who can supply you with topical prescription treatments, like topical calcineurin inhibitors and PDE4 inhibitors. These prescription medications reduce rashes, dryness, redness and itching.

  1. Over-the-Counter Topical Creams and Ointments

Hydrocortisone-containing products can work well, but less is more. Don’t overuse over-the-counter topical steroids. Overuse can lead to RSS.

  1. Phototherapy

Phototherapy uses special light machines to expose your skin to narrow band UVB. These light therapies reduce itchiness and redness while boosting vitamin D production.

Eczema Symptoms

What Natural Oils are Good for Eczema?

Is coconut oil good for eczema? Coconut oil soothes and calms eczema’s itchy, cracked skin. Coconut oil has lots of lauric acid, which is good for your skin. (x) However, some people are allergic to coconut oil, so you should take care of eczema if it gets worse after applying coconut oil to irritated skin. (x) (x) Coconut oil’s skin allergy symptoms include:

  • Hives
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anaphylaxis, a life-threatening emergency involving wheezing and trouble breathing (x)

Essential Oils for Eczema

Tea tree oil can be a valuable treatment for eczema. Oil from the Australian tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) prevents bacteria and fungi from invading cracked, broken skin. (x) (x) Tea tree oil also soothes irritated skin and reduces itching. Other helpful home remedies include lavender and peppermint essential oils. Remember to use coconut, olive or sesame seed oil as a carrier to apply to your infected area. 

Phototherapy for Eczema

Eczema and other skin conditions respond well to treatment with light therapy, also called phototherapy. (x) Phototherapy involves exposing affected skin to a special ultraviolet light.

Phototherapy helps to:

  • Calm itching skin
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Increase vitamin D production
  • Support and foster bacteria-fighting systems in the skin

About 70 percent of people with eczema get better with phototherapy. (x) Exposure to sunlight may also help to heal eczema. (x)

See Also
Arthritis

Supplements for Eczema

Supplements may be the best alternative to treating any skin condition. Talk with your healthcare provider whenever you want to start a new supplement. Some include: 

  1. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera extract powder is a standard treatment for various skin conditions. As a dietary supplement, take 1,000 mg (rounded 1/2 tsp) once daily with 8 oz of water or beverage of choice or directed by a physician. Use as desired, topically.

  1. Vitamin C

The human body can’t make vitamin C, so a steady intake is essential for a healthy immune system. It is also necessary to produce collagen, a central part of healthy skin. (x) As a dietary supplement, take 1,000 mg (1/4 tsp) up to three times daily or as directed by a physician.

  1. Beta Glucan

Beta glucan is a water-soluble fiber taken internally or applied topically for eczema and many other conditions. It helps quiet an over-responsive immune system by reducing the effects of cortisol. (x) Take 250 mg once daily with a meal or as directed by your physician.

  1. Biotin

Biotin is vitamin B7 and is essential for healthy hair, nails and skin. It is one of the most vital supplements in the skin and is often used to help treat it and psoriasis. (x) Take 100 mg (rounded 1/64 tsp) daily or as directed by a physician.

  1. Copper Gluconate

Copper gluconate is popular in cosmetics as an anti-aging agent. It stimulates the production of new skin cells and collagen fibers, which expedite the healing of superficial tissue damage caused by scratching. (x) Please note that copper gluconate is potentially toxic in even small quantities, so take extreme care to prevent an overdose. You should take no more than 4 milligrams in a day. Always allow a physician to guide your use of copper gluconate.

  1. Turmeric

Turmeric contains the potent anti-inflammatory curcumin, which reduces inflammation in skin tissues and joints. (x) Take 1,000 mg (just under 1/2 tsp) daily or as directed by a physician.

  1. Sulfur

Ancient healers used sulfur to treat skin diseases, and it proves just as fruitful today. Small doses applied sparingly work wonders. Consider taking it as a homeopathic remedy. (x

Where to Buy Supplements for Eczema?

You can purchase these powders and supplements for relieving eczema at BulkSupplements.com. The company is an industry-leading manufacturer and distributor of pure dietary supplements. 

BulkSupplements.com is not just a consumer brand. It also supplies pure ingredients to other food and supplement brands to make their products. All products at BulkSupplements.com are manufactured and tested according to current and proper manufacturing practices.

Are you interested in trying any of these powders or supplements mentioned in this article as a possible solution to helping you with eczema? Contact BulkSupplements.com to place an order today.

Homeopathic Treatments for Eczema

Some people self-prescribe homeopathic sulfur for treating their it with great success. But, it’s best to visit with a practitioner and discover the ideal treatment. Homeopathy is a system of treating the body so it can cure itself. As a medical treatment, doctors prescribe natural substances to help stimulate the healing process. The substances that produce symptoms of the sickness will have a curative effect with diluted quantities. (x)

Some common homeopathic remedies for eczema include:

  • Sulfur
  • Graphites
  • Calcarea carbonica
  • Cicuta virosa
  • Sepia
  • Natrum Muriaticum
  • Lycopodium

The Bottom Line

Eczema is a painful, chronic skin condition that’s incurable but highly treatable. Many home remedies for it are inexpensive and readily available. Homeopathic remedies seem adequate and help treat the skin condition with success. In addition, dietary supplements can boost the skin’s natural ability to heal and regenerate.

Since eczema is highly treatable, there are many options for you to choose as the best one. The essential aspect of the health concern is not to scratch yourself. Repeated scratching of the infected area leads to a more severe skin condition.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 
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