Eczema or dermatitis is a common dry skin condition. It is non-contagious but causes most sufferers get dry, scaly skin with some redness and itching. Atopic eczema, which is brought about by an allergic reaction to irritants, is the most common form of this condition. In the most acute cases of eczema the skin can crust, crack, bleed and itch constantly, as well as present permanent pigmentation changes. The soreness and itching from severe eczema can be a real blight, often leading to sleepless nights, moodiness and low self-esteem and leaving sufferers in desperate need of eczema relief.
While there’s no permanent known cure for eczema, sufferers can go through comparatively symptom-free periods between flare-ups if a few simple steps are followed to make sure that itching, inflammation and infections remain under control. Irritants should be avoided and effective medical treatment followed. But first it’s important to establish what is causing the eczema and triggering eczema flare-ups.
What causes the onset of adult eczema?
It is unknown what the exact trigger for eczema is but it can be an inherited trait in families with a history of allergies and asthma. It’s thought to be the body’s immune system generating an allergic response to particular irritants. The skin condition is more common in children whose immune system hasn’t had time to build up defences against environmental irritants, with around one in five children in the UK affected. But while many children will grow out of the condition, around one in 12 adults still suffer.
Adult eczema can be triggered in response to a number of substances or conditions. Everyone is different, so while some may react to coarse or man-made fabrics against the skin, for others eczema could be triggered by anything from extreme temperature changes to exposure to household cleaning products like soap, using the wrong beauty products and even animal dander (animal skin and hair). Respiratory infections and colds may also be triggers and stress and diet can aggravate the condition too.
In most cases eczema sufferers have a damaged skin barrier. Therefore, the skin produces less oil, in the form of sebum, from its hair follicles and is less able to retain water. The skin becomes dehydrated because cells are not plumped up with water and gaps open up between the cells. This allows potential irritants and bacteria to pass through the skin’s barrier more readily.
WHAT PRODUCTS CAN TRIGGER ECZEMAHousehold cleaning products often contain chemical irritants that can be very bad for vulnerable, eczema-prone skin. To prevent contact, gloves and protective clothing should always be worn when cleaning. Use hypoallergenic detergents to wash clothing.
Certain ingredients in beauty products need to be avoided. Including some “natural” products. Many formulas which claim to be “natural” contain preservatives and soaps that would exacerbate eczema. Some natural substances such as Tea Tree oil and lavender oil may sensitize patients’ skin, as they are potential allergens.
Use hydrating products with minimalist formulas that are specially developed and tested on sensitive skin like the La Roche-Posay LIPIKAR range.
ECZEMA CAUSES: ENVIRONMENTAL TRIGGERS
Pollution, dust mites, animal dander as well as fluctuations in temperature, can all have a real effect on eczema flare-ups.
Itching can be contained by keeping the body at an even, cool temperature and avoiding overheated rooms, especially at night. Very hot baths and non-breathable clothing should also be avoided as they can also cause the skin to get too hot and exacerbate the condition. A humidifier is useful if the air is particularly dry. The home should be kept as dust-free as possible by daily vacuuming, choosing wooden floors over carpets, putting covers on beds to protect them from dust and not allowing pets in the bedroom.
Polluted environments and places high in pollen can cause weakened skin to become irritated, so regular bathing and washing with a soap-free emollient can help to keep skin clean.
It’s not always simple to change lifestyle but there are factors to be aware of. Stress has been linked to eczema flare-ups so a stressful life should always be balanced with peaceful moments, where possible. Manage stress through yoga, meditation or mindfulness training
There’s some proof that diet can cause eczema, especially where the sufferer has particular food allergies to food groups like dairy, for example. An elimination diet, where certain foods are cut out for a few weeks and then monitored when reintroduced, can help to decipher what foods are triggering eczema.
There’s also much truth in the adage that ‘you are what you eat’. A balanced diet dominated by antioxidant rich fruit and vegetables, with good fats from fish, nuts and seeds and low in processed and sugary foods, alcohol and caffeine will not only help general skin health but will also aid brain function and body weight.
TREATING ECZEMA-PRONE SKIN
A starting point for treating eczema-prone skin should always be a visit to the GP in order to get a diagnosis, establish a treatment plan and ascertain if a visit to the dermatologist is necessary.
Emollients, which keep skin supple and help repair a weakened skin barrier, are an absolute must in treatment of the condition and should be used after bathing and as often as needed throughout the day. It’s best to use a product that has been specially designed for eczema-prone skin as even ‘natural’ products can contain ingredients that may cause irritation.
KEEP SKIN HYDRATED
Emollients such as La Roche-Posay LIPIKAR Baume AP+M, has been clinically designed for delicate skin. After bathing in a lukewarm bath or shower, pat the skin dry (avoid harsh rubbing) and then apply any prescribed topical therapies to inflamed, red areas followed by a fragrance-free moisturiser such La Roche-Posay LIPIKAR Baume AP+M, all over the body about ten minutes later.
This article is intended as general information only. You should seek advice from a professional before altering your diet or starting any new course of conduct.