Eczema is a chronic skin condition in which there is an irritation and inflammation of the skin. Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema. It is neither a serious problem, nor is it contagious. However, the red, swollen and itchy skin can cause emotional and psychosocial stress in affected individuals. Eczema is frequently seen in infants and children, and most will outgrow it before school age. But, for some, it can remain a long-lasting problem.
DID YOU KNOW?
•Eczema appears in early childhood, between two to six months of age.
•It affects people of all ages and ethnicities. The condition is most common in infants.
•Statistics suggest that about 85% people start suffering from eczema before five years of age.
•It is relatively more common in girls than in boys.
•People who live in cities and dry climates may be more likely to get this disease.
•Young children can have eczema, which is caused by allergic reactions to certain foods.
WHAT CAUSES ECZEMA?
Even though the exact cause of eczema is unknown, it is thought to be caused due to an exaggerated response by the body's immune system to an irritant. It is commonly seen in families with a history of other allergic conditions and asthma. Beside the cause, there are triggers which can result in flare-ups. Some people can have eczema flare-ups in response to certain substances or conditions, such as rough materials or a reaction to hot or cold weather. Contact with some household products like soap or detergent, or animal dander can also result in an outbreak. Stress may worsen eczema.
The symptoms of eczema differ from one person to another. Even the appearance of the rash may be different, depending on the area involved. The intensity of eczema can vary from mild to moderate to severe. Usually in eczema, the skin is dry and sensitive. Eczema is notorious for its severe itch. The itch can be so intense that a patient may scratch the skin until it bleeds, which only worsens the eczema, resulting in more itching. Eczema severity can also show variation - there are times when it may get worse and times when your skin becomes clear.
Following are the common symptoms of eczema:
•Itching that may be severe, particularly at night.
•Red to brownish-grey patches, especially on the hands, feet, ankles, wrists, neck, upper chest, eyelids, inside the bend of the elbows and knees.
•Small, raised bumps, which may ooze fluid and crust over when scratched.
•Thickened, cracked, dry, scaly skin.
•Raw, sensitive, swollen skin from scratching.
COMPLICATIONS OF ECZEMA
Neurodermatitis (lichen simplex chronicus) is one of the complications of eczema, which starts with a patch of itchy skin. Scratching this area can increase the intensity of itching, further resulting in the affected skin to be discoloured, thick and leathery. Repeated scratching breaks the skin, which escalates the risk of infection from bacteria and viruses. Other complications include eye problems (itching around the eyes, watering of eye), irritant hand dermatitis, and allergic contact dermatitis. In some cases, eczema can precede asthma and hay fever. Additionally, eczema can result in sleep disturbance and behavioural problem. Childhood eczema can have a profound effect on the quality of life of both the child who is suffering as well as the family. Itching and soreness due to eczema can cause sleeplessness, which results in tiredness, mood swings and compromised psychosocial functioning of the child and family. Eczema can often leave a patient feeling embarrassed and subject to comments, teasing and bullying, which could make the person feel lonely and result in depression.
HOMEOPATHIC TREATMENT FOR ECZEMA
Homeopathic treatment of eczema aims at treating the person, not just the disease in isolation. Homeopathic medicines gently propel the power of our immune system to scour the illness from its roots. Homeopathy avoids the use of external applications in treating eczema or any other skin disease. It selects an appropriate remedy to treat the individual — keeping in mind their physical, mental and emotional states, family history, and so on.
Eczema is evidenced to respond to homeopathic treatment most favourably. Homeopathy not only removes eczema from its roots, it also prevents the possibility of recurrence — a worrying prospect of conventional treatment. Homeopathy also helps to get rid of the possibility of hypersensitivity disorders such as allergies or asthma being triggered once eczema is treated successfully. A study of 118 eczema patients published in the Complementary Therapies in Medicine journal reported that the efficacy of homeopathy was comparable to the standard conventional treatments in the short-term and was superior in long-term management.Sulphur, Natrum muriaticum and Arsenicum album are few examples of homeopathic medicines which may help the eczema patient.
Three-year-old Anuj was brought to our clinic since he was suffering from itchy eruptions all over his body that exuded blood and pus. His t-shirt and shorts were stained with blood. His parents informed us that Anuj suffered from this agony since birth. They had tried the best conventional treatment, but in vain. No amount of steroid creams and emollients provided any relief to Anuj. On performing a detailed case-analysis, we found that Anuj was highly irritable, crying and screaming all the time.
Interestingly, he was comparatively calm when he was carried by someone. However, when he was put down on his bed to sleep, he would start yelling and also get violent. We asked his mother about her emotional condition during pregnancy; she revealed that she went through a lot of suppressed emotions and anger at that time. Based on her suppressed anger during pregnancy and excessive anger in her child, we gave Anuj Chamomilla. This not only reduced the itchiness, eruptions and discharges, but also calmed him down and made him sleep soundly. His eruptions too reduced — this was something that had not happened before. Stress during pregnancy, high pressure at work, problems in relationships, certain life events, or even rejection of an unwanted pregnancy, may have a major impact on the newborn child — in the form of allergies, recurrent coughs and colds and failure to thrive.
As seen in this case, homeopathic medicines are sometimes prescribed not only on the basis of the patient’s past or family history, but also on the basis of certain emotional reactions during the mother’s pregnancy.
SELF-CARE TIPS FOR ECZEMA
If you have eczema, here are a few tips you can do at home to avoid or reduce eczema flare-ups:
Take adequate steps to control stress- practice breathing exercises, relaxation techniques etc.
Avoid excessive sweating because this may flare-up the rashes.
Take quick, warm (not hot) showers and apply moisturiser to the skin immediately.
Wash your clothes, towels, etc., in mild detergents and avoid strong chemicals.
Keep your nails trimmed to avoid scratching.
Avoid eczema triggers.
Do not use soaps, detergents or solvents that are harsh on the skin.
Because temperature fluctuations trigger eczema; avoid sudden changes in temperature or humidity.
Drink plenty of fluids and keep yourself hydrated.
Moisturise your skin frequently.