Do you or someone you know suffer from eczema? DB resident Dr Graeme Bradshaw, founder of the Integrated Medicine Institute (IMI), clues us up about this common skin disease.
What is eczema?
Eczema, also known as dermatitis, is a dry itchy skin condition. It is not contagious, though it is often hereditary. In mild cases, the skin is dry, scaly, red and itchy. In some cases there is blistering, and bleeding if scratching is not controlled. For those with eczema, the skin doesn’t produce as much fat and oil as other people’s, and is less able to retain water.
How common is it?
Approximately one in five children and one in 12 adults have eczema. Around 65% of children outgrow it by seven years of age, but adults may see it recur again in later life.
What are the first signs?
The usual first signs include redness and itching, often on the face or folds of the elbows or knees. It may progress from one local area to larger areas because of scratching, over washing especially with soap, lack of necessary moisturising, and if aggravated by allergic sensitisation.
What are the main types of eczema?
Atopic dermatitis is often inherited and begins during infancy. The skin tends to be dry and itchy even between flare ups. It often affects the creases of body joints and can occur in small patches or all over the body. Sensitivity to dust mites, animal dander and/ or animal saliva is common. Contact dermatitis refers to a skin reaction to contact irritants, such as detergents, soaps, tap water, nickel jewellery, some fruits, cosmetics, hair dyes or wool. Blistering eczema is restricted to the hands and feet. The blisters can break and cause weeping and the skin is very itchy and inflamed. The cause is often related to emotional tension. Sensitivity to metal compounds such as nickel, cobalt, chromate, or heat and sweating can aggravate this type of eczema.
Can diet help?
Identifying the Immunoglobulin E (IgE) food and environmental allergies, and the food intolerances indicated by IgG blood testing is a basic starting point. Omega 3 oils, as well as Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) from borage or primrose oils often help the dry skin issues. Vitamin E supplements reduce IgE levels – appropriate for dust mite-, and food- and contact-related eczema. Reducing intestinal yeast, parasitic and bacterial infections and replacing the healthy probiotic flora can often help those suffering from atopic eczema. Nuts, seafood, dairy, eggs or wheat may be provoking foods.
How is eczema treated pharmaceutically?
Steroid creams suppress the symptoms well. Mild steroids may be used for control, but it is only a symptomatic therapy, not addressing the causes. Avoid using strong steroids for a prolonged period of time as this thins the skin. Emollient creams are usually necessary, medicated with pharmaceutical (or natural) anti-inflammatories. Desensitisation to allergies such as dust mites is also effective if that’s relevant. This can be done conventionally with micro-dose injections monthly over three years. Homeopathy also uses micro-doses; these are often taken orally. For atopic eczema to be resolved, desensitisation is usually needed.
What are the best natural remedies?
Drink plenty of water, since skin hydration is often the critical issue. Some find relief through liberal application of olive oil. Add 20% of primrose oil or 10% of borage oil to this if the skin is very dry. Oil bath remedies can help, and Lavera makes a good range. Allergenics skin wash is a suitable non-soap substitute. Itching is relieved with (powdered) oats added to the bath. Oral zinc supplements often help if the mineral is deficient, which in exfoliating (flaking) eczema it usually is. And I have often seen improvement with detoxification of mercury, especially if the eczema has developed in an adult with dental amalgams or a high fish or seafood diet.
Is eczema curable permanently?
Yes, homeopathy is the best way for permanent results. Talk to an experienced classical homeopath.
You can contact Dr Bradshaw at the Integrated Medicine Institute (IMI) on 2523 7121.