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Dealing with Eczema the Natural Way, By Dr. Stuart Garber
Eczema refers to a group of conditions that cause the skin to become inflamed or irritated. The most common type of eczema is known as atopic dermatitis, or atopic eczema. Atopic refers to a group of diseases with an often inherited tendency to develop other allergic conditions, such as asthma and hay fever.
Eczema affects about 20 percent of infants and 3 percent of adults and children in the U.S. Most infants who develop the condition outgrow it sometime during childhood while others continue to experience symptoms on and off throughout life.
No matter which part of the skin is affected, eczema is almost always itchy. Affected areas usually appear very dry, thickened, or scaly. In fair-skinned people, these areas may initially appear reddish and then turn brown. Among darker-skinned people, eczema can affect pigmentation, making the affected area lighter or darker.
In infants, the itchy rash can produce an oozing, crusting condition that occurs mainly on the face and scalp, but patches may appear anywhere.
Causes of Eczema:
The exact cause of eczema is unknown, but it's thought to be linked to an overactive response by the body's immune system to an irritant. It is this response that causes the symptoms of eczema. In addition, eczema is commonly found in families with a history of other allergies or asthma.
Some people may suffer "flare-ups" of the itchy rash in response to certain substances or conditions. For some, coming into contact with rough or coarse materials may cause the skin to become itchy. For others, feeling too hot or too cold, exposure to certain household products like soap or detergent, or coming into contact with animal dander may cause an outbreak. Upper respiratory infections or colds may also be triggers. Stress may cause the condition to worsen.
Studies have shown that children who are breast-fed until age 4 months are less likely to get atopic dermatitis.
The standard medical treatment for eczema is actually not so much treatment as it is management using topical steroids. Oral steroids may be prescribed for severe flare-ups. While the occasional use of topical steroids may not be harmful, prolonged use and the use of oral steroids may lead to a suppression of the immune system. Recently the FDA has approved a new class of drugs called Topical Immunomodulators (TIMs). At this time there are two FDA approved non-steroid drugs, both of which are so called “Black Box” drugs meaning they have special warnings and precautions!
It is because the unsatisfactory nature of the current treatment of eczema, both as to efficacy and safety, that I developed my skin formula, Dr. Garber's Natural Solutions for Skin. And when the problem is allergy related, which as discussed above, it often is, the formula acts synergistically with my EnviroDefence formula, Dr. Garber’s Natural Solutions for Allergy.
Home Skin Care:
Avoid scratching the rash or skin:
• Relieve the itch by using a moisturizer rather than potentially dangerous drugs. Moisturizers should be free of alcohol, scents, dyes, fragrances, or other chemicals.
• Keep your child's fingernails cut short. Consider light gloves if nighttime scratching is a problem.
A humidifier in the home will also help.
Avoid anything that makes your symptoms worse. This may include:
• Foods such as eggs in a very young child (always discuss with your doctor first)
• Irritants such as wool and lanolin
• Strong soaps or detergents, as well as chemicals and solvents
• Sudden changes in body temperature and stress, which may cause sweating and worsen the condition
• Triggers that cause allergy symptoms
When washing or bathing:
• Keep water contact as brief as possible and use gentle body washes and cleansers instead of regular soaps. Short, cooler baths are better then long, hot baths.
• Do not scrub or dry the skin too hard or for too long.
• After bathing, it is important to apply lubricating creams, lotions, or ointment on the skin while it is damp. This will help trap moisture in the skin.