Eczema, also known as atonic dermatitis, is characterized by an inflammation of the skin, and it is accompanied by redness, swelling, crusting, oozing, scaling and itchiness.
A person’s susceptibility to eczema is thought to be genetic, and it is often associated with a family history of allergies, particularly allergies such as hay fever, and asthma. However, environmental issues and certain food can also trigger eczema. Eliminating those substances, however, does not always cause a remission of eczema.
Symptoms of eczema often appear in the first couple months of life, and they often present as moist red crusted lesions on the scalp, face, arms, legs and diaper area. Older children, teens and adults often have more localized and chronic forms of eczema, most often manifesting as redness around the elbow joint, under the knees, and also on the neck, wrists and eyelids.
Normally, eczema improves by the time the child is three or four, but often worsens again later in life, either during childhood, puberty or adulthood. Eczema causes a constant itching, rubbing and scratching of the skin, and bacterial infections often take hold in the exposed skin.
Some factors commonly thought to worsen the symptoms of eczema include:
- Emotional stress
- Certain fragrances
- Temperature changes
- Changes in humidity or high humidity
- Dust mites
- Upholstered furniture
- Certain chemicals
- Some fabric softeners
- Wool clothing
Natural treatments for eczema include avoiding the environmental factors that trigger it, the use of antihistamines to relieve symptoms, UV radiation, corticosteroid creams, gels and ointments and psoralen. For particularly difficult cases, oral corticosteroids are sometimes used.
Some researchers have seen improvement in patients who avoid foods to which they are sensitive, such as wheat, milk and dairy products, shellfish, citrus fruits, peanuts and corn. In addition, some food preservatives have been shown to worsen symptoms in some patients, and avoiding those preservatives can often lessen the severity of eczema.
In addition, flaxseed oil has been shown to reduce eczema in some people. In addition, flaxseed oil is a good source of essential fats, and this can help to reduce the appearance of inflammation. A normal dose of flaxseed oil is one tablespoon per day.
Herbs, Vitamins And Nutritional Supplements
Gamma linolenic acid, or GLA, is an omega-6 essential fatty acid typically found in evening primrose oil. GLA has been shown to lessen the symptoms of eczema, and it is widely used throughout Europe as an eczema treatment. A typical dose of GLA is 2 to 4 grams per day, and it is normally taken along with food. It can take up to six months to see results with GLA treatment.
In addition, zinc supplements are thought to be effective in treating eczema. It is important not to exceed 30 mg per day when supplementing with zinc, since too much zinc can cause a copper deficiency.
Herbs thought to cleanse the skin and clear skin rashes include yellow dock, burdock, cleavers, nettle and red clover. These herbs are often good at healing the skin and lessening the appearance of eczema. Yellow dock is particularly effective at treating common skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
Topical Applications For Eczema
Application of zinc oxide directly to the skin can help relieve itchiness and therefore prevent secondary bacterial infections resulting from scratched and broken skin. Evening primrose oil applied directly to cracked and sore skin can help promote healing.
Other herbs, such as chickweed, chamomile, calendula, St. John’s Wort and goldenseal can all be applied directly to the skin to help speed healing of dry, cracked or painful skin. In addition, many preparations containing these herbs are available to treat eczema. You can find them at your local health food store and on the Internet as well.