Eczema, or dermatitis, is an allergic reaction that manifests in or on the skin. Although there are many types of eczema, the most common one people refer is atopic dermatitis. The word atopic refers to a tendency toward allergic conditions, and therefore people with ‘eczema’ tend have mild or acute allergic reaction in or on the skin when they either come in contact with, or ingest, substances which they are allergic to.
Types of Eczema
Besides atopic dermatitis, there are other, less common forms of eczema that result in varying symptoms and are caused by different factors.
• Atopic Dermatitis: The most common eczema, it is attribute to allergic reactions and is more common in people who have allergies such as hay fever or asthma. Because these allergies can be hereditary, eczema can also be passed on from generation to generation. Atopic dermatitis in infants is sometimes referred to as infantile eczema, and is quite common among newborns. Atopic dermatitis reactions usually manifest as itchy, inflamed skin.
• Contact Eczema: Also called contact dermatitis, contact eczema refers to a reaction in or on the skin due to direct contact with an irritant or trigger. Common triggers include perfumes, laundry soaps, fabrics, some metals and some cosmetics. Contact eczema usually manifests shortly after contact is made and can result in redness, burning, itching, and dryness. In some cases rashes or lesions can appear. Like atopic eczema, contact eczema seems to affect people with other allergies.
• Neurodermatitis: A condition of the skin that can cause chronic irritation and inflammation due to scratching. Scaly, itchy patches of skin tend become even itchier, resulting in more scratching and exacerbating the issue. Long term neurodermatitis can cause permanent damage to the skin. Also called lichen simplex chronicus, it commonly affects middle aged people, and is more prominent in women.
• Seborrheic Eczema: Seborrheic dermatitis causes yellowish scaly patches on the skin, usually on the scalp and face. Cradle cap is a good example of seborrheic dermatitis. The cause of seborrheic eczema is unknown, but it tends to be hereditary, and can manifest from extreme weather conditions, stress, and a build-up of oils in on the scalp and hair.
• Nummular Eczema: Common in elderly men, this chronic eczema manifests as scaly coin shaped patches that are extremely itchy. As with most eczema, people who are susceptible to hay fever and asthma allergies have a better chance of contracting nummular dermatitis.
The first thing you should do if you suspect you have eczema or another skin condition is consult with your physician. Your doctor can properly diagnose your eczema and make sure there are no underlying causes. One you have been diagnosed, you can try to eliminate or minimize eczema reactions by using some preventative measure below:
• Remove Allergens: There is a good chance that simply removing an irritant or trigger will eliminate your eczema. Switch to a laundry detergent with no added scent and refrain from using fabric softeners. Refrain from wearing perfumes and reduce cosmetics until you find out what is causing the irritation. Wear rubber gloves if you do the dishes.
• Food Allergies: If you have even mild food allergies, eliminate them from your diet. Your local naturopath can do an extensive allergy test that will allow you to isolate foods that you are minutely allergic too.
• Cleansing: Avoid dry skin by using only mild cleansers. Switch soaps to one with no perfumes.
• Avoid Itching: Avoid the urge to itch or scratch your skin. In almost all cases this will make the eczema worse. Use a salve or cover the area with a dressing to prevent ‘accidental’ scratching.
• Clothing: Avoid tight or itchy clothing, or any clothing that promotes sweating.
Natural Eczema Treatment
Treating eczema naturally can be just as effective as using prescribed medications such as steroid creams and anti-inflammatory medicines. Below are some natural ways to reduce itching, reduce inflammation and promote hydrating healthy skin:
• Coconut Oil: Applied to the affected area, coconut oil can soothe itching.
• Cold Compresses: Can reduce inflammation and dull the nerves to reduce itchiness or burning.
• Oatmeal Bath: Take a lukewarm bath with a couple cups of oatmeal. This remedy has been used for centuries to reduce skin inflammation and calm itchy skin and rashes.
• Vitamin E: Essential to proper skin health, creams with vitamin E can help soothe the skin and promote healing and hydration.
• Goldenrod: Reduces inflammation
• Roman Chamomile: alleviates itchiness and discomfort.
• Antioxidants: Great for skin health. May also reduce toxins in the body that may be causing an allergic reaction in the skin.
• Flax Seed Oil: Omega-3’s can help control eczema reactions and inflammation, as well as boost the immune system.
• Cod Liver Oil: Omega-3’s can help control eczema reactions and inflammation, as well as boost the immune system.
Eczema can be frustrating, especially if symptoms are ongoing or chronic. It is important to remember that like many inflammatory reactions, stress plays a large role in eruption frequency and duration. Keeping your stress level down with regular stress management can significantly reduce your eczema symptoms. Relax, and try the suggestion listed above one by one until you find what works for you.