What is eczema?
The term eczema can be used widely to describe any rash-like skin conditions. It is also known as atopic dermatitis. This skin condition commonly starts during infancy and may progress through childhood. Some individuals outgrow the condition while some can have it till adulthood. The word “atopic” means a collection of diseases related to the immune system, including atopic dermatitis, hay fever and asthma, to which a person can inherit. Dermatitis means skin inflammation.
No matter which part of the body is affected, eczema is almost always uncomfortable and itchy. Sometimes itching may occur before the appearance of the rash, but when it does, the rash most commonly occurs on the face, hands, wrists, back of the knees, feet and other areas. Affected areas usually become very dry, scaly and thick. These areas may initially appear reddish to brown in fair-skinned people, while it can be lighter among darker-skinned people. In infants, the itchy rash which can sometimes ooze appears mainly on the face and scalp.
Eczema is not a contagious disease like a cold, but it can be inherited. Experts think that the condition can be passed through the genes. About 1 in 10 people in the world can get eczema at some point in their lives. People with eczema also may have certain allergies that may worsen the condition. It can be difficult for a person with eczema to avoid all the triggers, or irritants. In an eczema flare-up, affected persons may feel the urge to always scratch the itchy area, which can result in blisters, inflammation, redness and infection. People with the condition will often experience flare ups or worsening of the symptoms for periods of time, followed by an improvement or clearing up of symptoms. Symptoms of eczema along with its treatment may vary from person to person.
What causes eczema?
The specific cause of eczema is still unknown, but dermatologists believe that it is due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors such as the following:
Malfunctioning of the immune system: Individuals who suffer from eczema have an overactive T helper 2 (Th2) immune system, which is responsible for the production of immunoglobulin E antibody that is activated in the presence of allergens. According to research, filaggrin is not the only predisposing gene for eczema. Children are more likely to develop eczema if one or both of their parents have a history of it, or another atopic disease.
Environmental conditions: Hot and cold temperatures, high and low humidity, and perspiration from exercise can trigger eczema.
Allergens: These are substances that can cause the body to react abnormally and flare up symptoms of eczema. Some of the most common allergens that can trigger symptoms are house dust mites, hair especially in cats and dogs, pollens, moulds and dandruff.
Irritants: Coming into contact with rough or coarse materials may trigger the symptoms. This includes household products like soap or detergent, shampoos, dishwashing liquids, bubble bath, disinfectants, fresh fruits, meats and vegetables.
Microbes: Some types of microbes such as bacteria, viruses and fungi can trigger symptoms. Staphylococcus aureus bacterium can trigger inflammation that can aggravate the condition by secreting toxins.
Hormones: Women can experience worsening of symptoms when their levels of hormones change especially during menstruation, pregnancy and menopause.
Foods: Eczema can sometimes be caused by food allergens such as dairy products, eggs, nuts, seeds, soy products, wheat.
Stress: Stress is known to be associated with eczema, but how it specifically affects the condition is not fully understood. Prolonged periods of stress can flare up symptoms.
Although there is no cure for eczema, most people can effectively manage the condition with the correct skin care regime, medical treatment and prevention of irritants.
What is the eczema treatment?
Although symptoms of eczema may vary from person to person, the main goal of treatment is to relieve itching which provokes or worsens other symptoms. In some very mild cases, the condition can be managed by avoiding triggers. But in severe cases, your doctor may prescribe topical creams or oral antibiotics to manage the disease. While it is of utmost importance to seek professional advice, there are ways in which you can manage eczema and relieve its symptoms:
Avoid substances that can irritate the skin: Besides your known triggers, avoid harsh household cleaners, drying soaps, scented lotions and detergents. Irritants can worsen eczema and may increase your urge to scratch.
Try to avoid hot water: Hot water can strip your skin of its natural oils and cause skin dryness so take warm baths. The skin can be easily irritated if it’s too dry. Be sure to gently and thoroughly pat your skin dry after bathing or showering, as rubbing with a coarse towel can irritate the eczema.
Wear clothes made of cotton: Clothes made of fabric like wool can irritate the skin. Wear clothes made of cotton to reduce friction against your affected area.
Cleanse: Use a gentle cleanser which is non foaming or a simple cold pressed oil such as Jojoba or Grape Seed.
Moisturize: O2 Revitalizing Moisturiser brings oxygen back to the skin with LYCD (Live Yeast Cell Derivative) one of its active ingredients, which is also calming and regenerating. LYCD (also known as Bio-dyne life force) has a skin respiratory factor that helps skin cells promote the healing process through an increased uptake of oxygen. LYCD has been isolated as a protein fraction, containing a mixture of several peptides, one of which is a peptide fraction that stimulates wound healing. Biodyne is known to be biologically active on skin cells. SOD (Super Oxide Dismutase) aids in the synthesis of both collagen (the structural protein of our skin) and GAGs (polysaccharides that lubricate, hydrate and protect or cells). Gingko Biloba and Vitamin E assists in free radical damage, whilst oils of Almond, Avocado, Wheat Germ, Hazel Nut and Carrot help to nourish a compromised skin, with Sodium Hyaluronate improving EWL (Epithelial Water loss/Dehydration).
O2 can be used AM and PM on all skin types, especially suited to sensitive skins.
Use a serum: Chi’s Natto Serum is made fermented soya beans and has a sticky sensation with ten times the hydrating power of Hyaluronic Acid. Natural in vitamins B2, B6, B12, E & K2 it is perfect for the treatment of eczema and dermatitis.
Avoid scratching: Even though it’s hard to resist, scratching can get your skin infected and make it more difficult to heal. To control itching, wrap ice in a clean towel and apply it to the affected, itchy area.
Unwind: Stress can flare up symptoms of eczema. Find time to relax and enjoy your life. Get yourself a massage, attend yoga, tai chi, aerobics, and do other things that can make you feel good!
- 1. Rich, R. (2013). Clinical Immunology,Principles and Practice, page 531.
- 2. Sutton, A. (2007). Allergies Sourcebook: Basic Consumer Health Information about Allergic Disorders, page 173.
- 3. McLean, I. (2011). The allergy gene: how a mutation in a skin protein revealed a link between eczema and asthma.
- 4. Alikhan, A., et al (2014). Textbook of Hand Eczema, page 122.