Eczema Awareness week takes place in Ireland from 24th-30th September, to raise awareness about eczema and its impact on sufferers. For more information see www.eczemaireland.org. Eczema is now three times more common in Ireland than it was 30 years ago, it can be a challenging condition for sufferers causing physical and emotional upset.
The word eczema comes from the Greek word “ekzein” which means “to boil.”
Eczema is a dry skin condition. It is a highly individual condition which varies from person to person; it is not contagious so you cannot catch it from someone else. In mild cases of eczema, the skin is dry, scaly, red and itchy. In more severe cases there may be weeping, crusting and bleeding. Constant scratching causes the skin to split and bleed and also leaves it open to infection.
Eczema affects people of all ages but is commonly seen in children. Those who “grow out” of their eczema during early childhood may see it return in later life.
If you have eczema, your skin may not produce as many fats and oils as other people, and retains less water. The protective barrier is therefore not as good as it should be. Moisture can be lost from the deeper layers of the skin, allowing bacteria or irritants to pass through more easily. Some everyday substances contribute to breaking down the skin. Soap, bubble bath and washing-up liquid, for example, will remove oil from anyone’s skin, but if you have eczema your skin breaks down more easily, quickly becoming irritated, cracked and inflamed. Skin with eczema is more liable to become red and inflamed on contact with substances that are known to irritate or cause an allergic reaction.
Simple skincare can be helpful to alleviate itching and broken skin, choose products which are made from natural ingredients without alcohol, fragrance petroleum and chemicals such as propylene glycol these cause further dryness and irritation to eczema. Bathe or shower in lukewarm water and pat the skin dry rather than rubbing.
Green People's Organic Base range is ideal as it is unfragranced and contains no alcohol; the aloe vera based products are gentle for everyday use and help to soothe skin. This range can also be used for children. Lavender Baby Salve also from the Green People range contains nourishing plant oils which provide moisture throughout the day without the drying effects of aqueous creams.
Oats baths can help to soothe eczema, fill a pair of tights with porridge oats and let the water run through this into the bath. The polysaccharides (complex sugars) found in oatmeal break down in water, forming a kind of gel which helps form a physical barrier to prevent your skin from drying out. The fats in oatmeal are a fantastic natural way to lubricate your skin and keep it hydrated.
Rough fibres in clothes such as wool can aggravate eczema so opt for clothes made of cotton or natural fibres, take a look at your washing detergent, generally anything containing phosphates can irritate skin further and avoid fabric softener. Over-heating, frosty weather, low humidity, dry air, central heating, air conditioning and car heaters can all aggravate a dry skin and eczema. Use a humidifier in dry or heated rooms to keep the air moist.
Diet can play a part in aggravating Eczema, avoiding acidic foods such as dairy, red meat and refined sugars can help to keep skin calm. Add foods rich in Vitamin C such as sweet potatoes, leafy greens and broccoli, Vitamin C has anti histamine and anti-inflammatory properties which help to reduce flare ups.
Taking Essential Fatty Acids supplement such as Nature's Aid Flaxseed Oil provides moisture to the skin from the inside out which may relieve itching and inflammation. Zinc promotes healing of the skin, boosts the immune system and helps the body to process essential fatty acids.
Our skin is linked with the liver and helping to support the liver's detoxification process can have a positive effect on the skin. In eczema, the normal channels of elimination (kidney and liver) are overtaxed and the body ends up using an alternate avenue of elimination; the skin. Milk Thistle helps the liver to perform better which in turn reduces the severity of eczema.
The byword with eczema treatment is to act promptly. If it suddenly flares up, don't ignore it. Remember that eczema can become infected. Develop and maintain a skin routine which takes into account triggers and the best way of coping with flare-ups. Your Health professional can assist with this.
If you have any questions regarding supplements or skincare for eczema, do get in touch.