While there’s no permanent known cure for eczema, there are steps that can be taken to ensure that itching, inflammation and infections remain under control by avoiding certain triggers and using effective medical treatment for eczema.
Eczema or dermatitis is a common, non-contagious, dry skin condition which causes most sufferers get dry, scaly skin with some redness and itching, though in more severe cases the skin can crack, bleed, crust, itch constantly an have permanent pigmentation changes. The most common form of this condition is atopic eczema, which means it’s caused by an allergic reaction to irritants. The itching and soreness from severe eczema can be a real blight, often leading to sleepless nights, moodiness and low self-esteem, leaving sufferers in desperate need of eczema relief.
While there’s no permanent known cure for eczema, sufferers can go through relatively symptom-free periods of between flare-ups and there are steps that can be taken to ensure that itching, inflammation and infections remain under control by avoiding irritants and using effective medical treatment for eczema. But first it’s important to establish what is causing the eczema and what is triggering eczema flare-ups.
What triggers the onset of adult eczema?
The exact cause of eczema is unknown but it’s thought to be the body’s immune system producing an allergic response to certain irritants. It can also be an inherited trait in families with a history of allergies and asthma. Eczema is much more common in children whose immune system hasn’t had time to build up immunity 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.
In general eczema sufferers have a compromised skin barrier. This means that the skin produces less oil, in the form of sebum, from its hair follicles and is therefore 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.
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.
Chemical irritants in household cleaning products can be very bad for vulnerable, eczema-prone skin so gloves and protective clothing should always be worn when cleaning and hypoallergenic detergents used to wash clothing.
As well as this, certain ingredients in beauty products should be avoided. This can include some “natural” products. Many formulas which claim to be “natural” contain preservatives and soaps that would exacerbate eczema. Plus some natural substances such as Tea Tree oil and lavender oil may sensitize patients’ skin, as they are potential allergens.
Use products with minimalist formulas that are specially developed and tested on sensitive skin like the La Roche Posay Lipikar range.
Fluctuations in temperature as well as pollution, dust mites and animal dander can all have a real affect on eczema flare-ups.
Keeping the body at an even, cool temperature by avoiding overheated rooms, especially at night, is helpful in stopping itching. Very hot baths and non-breathable clothing 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, using 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.
A starting point for eczema treatment 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. For more serious cases of eczema, Topical corticosteroids (cortisone) are the standard prescription treatment advised for eczema relief. If these are ineffective a systemic corticosteroid, (injected or taken by mouth) may be prescribed for a short time. Sometimes a simple antihistamine can also be very effective in reducing itching.
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. Emollients such as La Roche Posay Lipikar Baume AP+, has been clinically designed to treat even baby 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 as La Roche Posay Lipikar Baume AP+, 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.