Eczema

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Eczema

Eczema is a common skin condition causing red, itchy and dry skin. It affects both children and adults. Eczema is also known as atopic dermatitis1.

Description

Why some people develop eczema is not well understood, however, it can run in families. Many people with eczema also have other allergic conditions, including hay fever and asthma.2

Eczema is a dry skin condition. Dry skin is more prone to react to allergens and irritants that can make the skin itchy. Scratching itchy skin triggers the body to release chemicals making the skin feel itchier. This scratch and itch cycle can cause discomfort, disrupt sleep and affect your quality of life.

Eczema throughout life

Eczema is most common in infants but can affect people of all ages. It is a chronic (long-term) condition. Infantile eczema occurs in around 20% of children under two years of age and improves significantly between 2 to 5 years of age. Childhood eczema may follow infantile eczema or start from two to four years of age. Rashes and dryness are usually found in the creases of the elbows, behind the knees, across the ankles, and may also involve the face, ears and neck. This form of eczema usually improves with age.

Adult eczema causes very dry, itchy, reddened skin at the elbow creases, wrists, neck, ankles and behind the knees. Rough, hard and thickened skin often develops, which may also have weeping areas. Although the condition tends to improve in middle life, it can still occur in elderly people.

Eczema can be associated with other allergic disorders

If you have eczema you are likely to have other allergies such as allergic rhinitis (hay fever), asthma, food allergy, or dust mite allergy3.

Cause

The following factors can trigger a worsening or 'flare up' of eczema symptoms4:

  • dry skin
  • scratching the affected area
  • viral or bacterial infections
  • chemicals from swimming pools
  • sand, especially from sandpits
  • contact with some types of carpet or grass
  • allergens that you can breathe in, such as pollen
  • artificial colours and preservatives
  • perfumes, soap and chemicals
  • woollen or synthetic fabrics
  • heat or very hot rooms
  • stress

Diet Hints

Many infants with moderate or severe eczema will also have food allergies. In some young infants with severe eczema, avoiding certain foods can result in better eczema control. This should always be done under the supervision of a medical Allergy Specialist, in association with a Dietitian who has specialised knowledge of food allergies.

Treatment

As with all medical conditions, see your GP for diagnosis and treatment. While there is no cure it can be managed with the following steps:

  • Protect your skin by applying moisturiser every day and using a soap-free wash or oil in the bath or shower. Avoid soap and bubble bath. Some people with severe eczema might need #LINK#wet dressings#ENDLINK# to cool, protect and rehydrate the skin.
  • Treat flare-ups by using cortisone ointments or creams prescribed by your GP.
  • Control itching by using antihistamines, a cold compress for the affected area and trying to avoid scratching.
  • Control and prevent infection by using antibiotics to treat infection if prescribed by your GP.

Vitamins/Herbs/Mins

- Probiotics may help to reduce the severity of eczema in some cases. A probiotic supplement needs to be taken for at least 8 weeks to achieve a therapeutic benefit4.
- Vitamin A has antioxidant properties that support immune function.
- Fish oil can reduce inflammation and skin dryness.
- Zinc is thought to aid healing of the skin and enhance immune function.
- Chickweed is a herb that can be applied to the skin as a cream or ointment to soften your skin and prevent itching.
- Calendula is a herb that can be applied to your skin to help reduce inflammation and redness.

Pharmacist’s Advice

Ask your Pharmacist for advice
1) Use a soap-free wash from your Pharmacy.
2) Apply a thick layer of unperfumed moisturiser all over your skin within three minutes of bathing or showering to 'lock in' moisture and protect your skin barrier.5
3) Adding lubricating oils to your bath may help to relieve dry skin. Ask your Pharmacist for advice.
4) Ask your Pharmacist for advice about protective clothing, including cotton gloves, which may be needed if contact with irritating or allergic substances cannot be avoided.
5) Cold compresses and wet wraps may help reduce itch. Ask your Pharmacist for advice.
6) A mild cortisone cream may help to relieve symptoms. If you have any queries regarding your prescribed medication, ask your Pharmacist for advice.
7) If your diet is considered inadequate, consider the nutritional supplements recommended above.

Naturopath

Ask your Naturopath for advice. - Use a soap-free wash. - Apply a thick layer of unperfumed moisturiser all over your skin within three minutes of bathing or showering to 'lock in' moisture and protect your skin barrier.6 - Adding lubricating oils to your bath may help to relieve dry skin. Ask your Naturopath for advice. - Ask your Naturopath for advice about protective clothing, including cotton gloves, which may be needed if contact with irritating or allergic substances cannot be avoided. - Cold compresses and wet wraps may help reduce itch. - Chickweed or calendula ointment or cream, applied to your skin, may help to manage eczema symptoms. - If your diet is considered inadequate, consider the nutritional supplements recommended above.

Aromatherapy

The listed oils are suggested for the temporary relief of the symptoms of eczema. The most specific oils are shown in capitals.
Avocado, BERGAMOT, BLUE CHAMOMILE, CHAMOMILE, EVENING PRIMROSE, Geranium, Jasmine, JOJOBA, LAVENDER, Melissa, Orange, Wheatgerm.

Source

1. Eczema. ASCIA. 2019. Available from URL: https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/skin-allergy/eczema

2. Eczema. Health Direct. Australian Dept of Health. Dec 2017. Available from URL: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/eczema

3. Eczema. ASCIA. 2019. Available from URL: https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/skin-allergy/eczema

4. Emilia Rusu et al. Prebiotics and probiotics in atopic dermatitis. Exp Ther Med.. 2019 Aug; 18(2): 926–931. Available from URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6639913/

4. Eczema. Health Direct. Australian Dept of Health. Dec 2017. Available from URL: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/eczema

5. Controlling eczema by moisturising. National Eczema Association US. Cited March 2019. Available from URL: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/treatment/moisturizing

6. Controlling eczema by moisturising. National Eczema Association US. Cited March 2019. Available from URL: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/treatment/moisturizing

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