Eczema is a skin condition that appears as a rash, and may be red, itchy, irritated and swollen. Affected skin may also appear scaly and thickened, and dandruff may develop when eczema appears on the scalp or eyelids. Severe cases of eczema may develop into patches of blisters that ooze clear fluids and then scab. Eczema can appear anywhere on the body, but is most-frequently found on hands, elbows, knees, the neck, the chest, and the head. Fortunately, this uncomfortable, chronic condition can be effectively treated with Traditional Chinese Medicine, which includes herbs and acupuncture treatments.
There are several reasons a person may develop eczema. The most common reason is genetic. Most eczema sufferers come from families with a history of both eczema and other allergic sensitivities like hay fever, asthma, allergic rhinitis and food allergies. Eczema patients may also have a tendency toward dry, easily irritated skin, and may have a history of related conditions like psoriasis, dandruff, hair loss and dry nails. The onset of eczema may occur in adulthood or in childhood. In the case of children, eczema may be related to c-sections and premature birth. Child sufferers usually develop eczema in infancy, and 50% of childhood eczema patients outgrow it by adulthood. Adult sufferers often experience a more serious form of the disease.
There are several triggers for eczema outbreaks. Patients may develop eczema in response to temperature-related and/or seasonal triggers like cold weather, dry winter house heat, intense heat and sweat. Skin contact with irritants such as wool, synthetic fabrics, cleaning chemicals, detergents, perfumes and dyes, and certain kinds of metals (like in jewelry) may also cause an outbreak. Pollens may also induce the development of eczema. Food allergies can be responsible for an eczema outbreak as well; the most common culprits of which are (but are not limited to): sweets, alcohol, dairy, and wheat. Other triggers include illness and hormonal fluctuations that accompany the menstrual cycle. Each person’s eczema triggers may be different, and it is important for an eczema patient to carefully monitor outbreaks in order to avoid her/his personal triggers.
Western medicine offers several treatments for eczema. The bulk of these treatments include topical or ingested drugs. Western doctors may prescribe antibiotics, which can be hard on the digestive system as well as result in various other side effects. Another common treatment is cortisone and other steroids. While steroids are often effective, they can have serious side effects like increased blood pressure, weight gain, compromised immune response, and joint and bone problems. Other prescriptions may include antihistamines, and the very strong topical drugs, immunomodulators. It’s important to consider that, while many of these treatments are effective, eczema is a chronic condition, and over time, patients can become resistant to drug therapies. Also, these treatments all deal with eczema symptom relief, and don’t address the underlying cause of the disease.
Eczema and Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers an alternative, drug-free treatment of eczema that ministers to the root of the illness. Chinese medicine does not diagnose eczema as simply one condition. An acpuncture treatment begins with a thorough, full-system examination and consultation before pinpointing the root source of the physical imbalance. When this is done, a unique, individual treatment plan will be created to address the patient’s individual needs. For example, an eczema patient may be diagnosed as having “too much damp heat.” In this case, a “damp” condition may be causing fluid retention, resulting in swelling on the skin. The “heat” condition is the cause for redness and inflammation–excess “heat” inhibits the body’s ability to soothe and cool itself. A treatment plan will then include an acupuncture regimen designed to disperse dampness and heat and rebalance the body’s energy and blood. Treatment will also involve the prescription of topical and/or ingested herbs to restore the body to health, and minimize or eliminate eczema symptoms.
Eczema patients can also make some simple lifestyle changes for better health. It is advisable to wear cotton clothes whenever possible as cotton is the least-likely fabric to irritate the skin. Also, it is recommended to avoid traditional soaps and detergents, and to use gentle, moisturizing cleansers as well as chemical-free moisturizers. Dietary supplements also support better health. Essential fatty acids have proven to dramatically restore the skin of eczema patients. In addition to these supplements, vitamins B, E and A, zinc, black currant oil, cod liver oil, and bioflavinoids support eczema recovery. A patient should try to identify personal eczema triggers and avoid them as much as possible.