- Eczema is a common skin condition that can affect anyone at any age.
- Eczema may also be referred to as “atopic dermatitis”
- The only way to tell if you have eczema is to be evaluated by a health care provider.
- While there is no cure for eczema, there are many treatments to manage symptoms which often include dry, red, scaly and itchy skin.
Our skin comes in contact with many different things such as the weather, clothes, soaps and lotions, and a variety of beauty products. Many of us will have a skin rash from time to time, but people with eczema have very sensitive skin and chronic skin problems.
What is eczema?
Eczema, pronounced “eck-zeh-ma” is a chronic skin condition. The medical word for it is: “atopic dermatitis”. If you have eczema, your skin is likely to feel itchy, red, rough, dry, scaly, and sometimes, it may feel bumpy. It’s not contagious, so others can’t catch it from you.
What causes eczema?
There is no known cause for eczema, but many medical experts believe that a person is more likely to develop eczema if a family member has it or if they have a problem with their immune system (the bodies’ natural defense against disease). If one or both of your parents have eczema, asthma, hay fever, or another allergic condition, you’re at risk for having symptoms too, but your symptoms may be mild, moderate, or severe.
Who gets eczema?
Eczema is a common skin condition that can affect anyone, at any age. It most often appears during the first 5 years of life, but it can also start during the teen years or even when you’re an adult.
What are the symptoms of eczema?
Symptoms of eczema include:
- Itchy skin – the itching can be mild to intense and is often worse at night
- Areas of dry, red, scaly or flaky skin
- Patches of darker and thicker skin- caused from scratching or rubbing
- Small bumps on the face, upper arms, and thighs
- Bleeding or crusting from scratched or infected areas
Is there a test for eczema?
Unfortunately there’s no test for eczema. The only way to diagnose eczema is by having your health care provider or dermatologist (skin specialist) look at your skin and ask you questions about you and your family’s medical history.
How is eczema treated?
While there is no cure for eczema, there are many treatments to help manage the symptoms. Since dry skin leads to itchiness and inflammation, the goal of treatment is to find the best cream or ointment that will keep your skin moisturized (not dry) and lessen inflammation. Although eczema can be uncomfortable, there are things you can do to help your skin feel better.
Types of treatment include:
- Moisturizing lotions and creams to keep skin moist
- Antihistamine medicine to lessen itchiness
- Prescription creams that contain steroid medicine to lessen inflammation
- Wet compresses to soothe and hydrate skin
- UV (ultraviolet) light therapy (also known as phototherapy)
Although eczema can be uncomfortable, there are things you can do to help your skin feel better.
Will my eczema ever go away?
Most young children who have eczema get better by the time they go to school. Some people may actually outgrow their symptoms during the adult years, but others may have it for the rest of their lives. There’s no way to tell if your eczema will go away completely, but it’s very possible that your symptoms may lessen as you get older. You may have occasional “flare-ups” (times when your skin is particularly sensitive and reacts to things in the environment).
Is there anything else I can do to lessen the chance of flare-ups?
Yes. Besides following the treatment plan that your health care provider or dermatologist gives you, you can avoid “triggers” or irritants that make your symptoms worse.
|Things that may cause a flare-up:||What you can do:|
|Too much bathing, showering, or swimming||Limit your time in the water. Pat your skin dry and apply moisturizing lotion.|
|Sweating too much||Wear clothing made from natural and breathable fabrics such as 100% cotton and avoid getting overheated.|
|Sudden temperature changes, humidity||Avoid being outside during extreme weather conditions.|
|Harsh soaps, cosmetics, perfume||Use mild soap and hypoallergenic makeup and avoid perfume scented products.|
|Wool or man-made fabrics (polyester)||Avoid wearing clothing that irritates your skin. Stick with fabrics such as cotton.|
|Cleaning products||Use mild chemical-free cleaning products. Wear gloves when using strong cleaning products.|
If your symptoms don’t get better with treatment and the above suggestions, your health care provider might do allergy testing to see if something else is causing your eczema. Some people with eczema have allergies to things such as dust, pollen and pets. Additional Resources
The symptoms of eczema tend to be more pronounced in childhood, and thankfully they reduce in severity if the disease carries through into adulthood (2).
That being said, eczema can start in adulthood. The main symptoms include:
- Extremely dry and oversensitive skin
- Extreme itching
- Red, inflamed skin
- Frequent rashes around the joints
- Scaly skin
- Rough leathery areas of skin
- Crusty and flaky skin
- Swollen skin
One of the main issues associated with treating eczema is that everyone has different symptoms – the rash can look different from person to person and the rashes can also affect different parts of the body from time to time.
One of the maddening things about eczema is that the itch can become so severe that it’s almost impossible not to scratch it.
But scratching the itch can lead to bleeding, making the rash spread or become more severe, increasing inflammation, and causing even more itching.
There is no cure for eczema but the symptoms, if dealt with correctly, can be manageable (2).
5 Home Remedies for Eczema
These natural remedies focus on fortifying your skin barriers, retaining moisture, and addressing symptoms like itching.
1. Target your diet
What dietary changes can help with eczema?
Basically, following a healthy, allergen-free, whole-foods-based diet can go a long way to reduce underlying inflammation.
Here are some things to consider:
- Additives and processed foods make the symptoms a lot worse
- Allergens like gluten, dairy, and nuts can be a catalyst for eczema
- Margarine and trans fats block the absorption of essential fatty acids needed for healing
- Sugar increases whole body inflammation and it also decreases your immune function
- Fried foods increase whole body inflammation
- Alcohol increases inflammation and dries your skin out.
2. Coconut Oil
Try moisturizing your skin with organic, unrefined coconut oil.
Coconut oil contains lauric acid, antioxidants, and medium chain fatty acids, which help to hydrate the skin and kill bacteria.
3. Jojoba Oil
While coconut oil can be effective, as I mentioned earlier eczema is a highly individual skin condition.
That means not everyone will benefit from the same home remedies for eczema. If coconut oil doesn’t work, try jojoba oil.
Jojoba is not actually an oil but a liquid wax that penetrates the skin cells very deeply and has a similar structure to sebum.
Sebum is the skin’s natural moisturizer and jojoba oil is extremely rich in long chain fatty acids and other moisturizing agents (4).
For the best results clean and dry your hands and then gently massage the jojoba oil into the affected areas.
Apply 3 times per day as needed.
4. Vegetable Glycerine
If the oil choices don’t work, you might consider using vegetable glycerine.
Don’t be alarmed when you hear the word glycerin – the distinction between regular and vegetable glycerine is the key.
Glycerine is the main compound found in oils and fats and is usually a byproduct in the soap manufacturing industry. But what separates vegetable glycerine from regular glycerin is that it is plant-based and of a higher quality.
Vegetable glycerine is approximately 99 percent pure with the remaining 1 percent being water (4).
That makes it a safe choice to help heal dry and inflamed skin. Vegetable glycerine also helps to draw water into the skin cells and then seal in moisture. It also helps to fill in the gaps within the skin and it distributes the moisture evenly throughout the layers of the skin.
The best method of using glycerine is to mix it up in a 1:1 ratio with water (for instance, a quarter-cup each), and then put the solution into a spray bottle. Shake up the spray bottle and then apply to the areas of the skin that need attention.
5. Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea helps soothe eczema symptoms.
It helps to reduce inflammation, calms down itchiness, and heals the patches of skin that have been scratched. Some of its main benefits are derived from the natural based alcohol called bisabolol (4).
Bisabolol reduces irritation and inflammation and contains potent antimicrobial agents that help to fight off any bacteria and infections caused by weakened skin.
The best method to use chamomile tea to soothe your skin is to bathe in it.
Place 4 tablespoons of dried chamomile flowers into a muslin cloth and then place directly under the faucet as you fill your bathtub. Once the tub is full of water, squeeze the muslin bag into the bath water and soak for 15 minutes.
When you’re done the bath, dry off and moisturize well.
Holistic Approach Works Best
Following a healthy lifestyle, eliminating allergens and inflammatory foods, and cutting back on stress can go a long way toward easing eczema symptoms.
While each eczema sufferer might have their own unique triggers, experimenting with home remedies for eczema can help the body battle with this disease.
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