Eczema

                       Eczema

Eczema is a general term for chronic skin conditions characterized by irritated and itchy patches of skin.  While chronic eczema is often dry and scaly, acute flares can be extremely inflamed, itchy, cracked and “weepy” (oozing yellow-clear fluid).

 

Eczema develops in two main ways, which are often interrelated:

1) Internal reaction to allergens

2) External drying and cracking of the skin

 


 

When the body produces an allergic reaction, it can present its irritation via the skin.  This type of reaction is usually referred to as atopic dermatitis.  Individuals with atopic dermatitis may be genetically predisposed, but environmental influences also play a significant role in the development of the condition.  In general, anything that leads to an abnormally heightened immune response has the potential of triggering atopic dermatitis.  This includes external factors, such as food or pollution, and internal triggers, such as stress.  In cases where a sensitive immune system leads to eczema, avoidance of triggers will help resolve flares.  Further holistic support can help calm the immune system and prevent future break-outs. 

Our skin naturally protects our bodies from external pathogens.  However, when the skin becomes too dry, it cracks and is more susceptible to infection.  Infection then leads to inflammation of the skin and aggravates eczema.  Some individuals naturally produce fewer protective proteins on the skin surface, leading to drying of the skin.  Dry weather, chemicals and extensive hand-washing can also cause loss of skin moisture.  Scratching itchy skin can further break the skin surface and worsen existing symptoms.  In cases where skin has become cracked and dry, daily use of a natural (non-irritating) moisturizing lotion can help soothe chronic eczema and prevent acute flares. 

Acupuncture and naturopathic medicine both consider health from the inside to the outside and are well-suited to treating chronic skin conditions such as eczema.  For instance, a naturopath can identify specific inflammatory triggers, especially food sensitivities, which so often lead to dermatitis.  Further, an acupuncturist can help calm the immune system through the use of both acupuncture needles and herbs.  By assessing lifestyle, diet and current health status, both modalities aim to find holistic balance within each individual. 

 

References 

Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. (2013). Overview: Eczema. PubMed Health.  Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth.

Medline Plus. (2013). Eczema.  U.S. National Library of Medicine.  Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/eczema.html.

Photo:  http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

 
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