Eczema is a common skin condition that affects adults and children alike. Eczema comes from the word “ekzein”, which is Greek for “boil out”. It is an inflammation of the skin, which triggers a reaction that makes it dry, red and often very, unbearably itchy for some.
It is perhaps far more common than you might realise. In fact, a shocking one in twenty adults and one in five children suffer from the itchy, nasty skin ailment.
The most common types of eczema include atopic dermatitis, irritant dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema and seborrheic eczema.
While giving the issue a name may not exactly appease the situation, a doctor can tell you the specific kind of eczema that you may have so that you will be able to cure it.
Whichever type you have, there are common symptoms and causes of eczema that, if you are prone or have experienced an itchy skin irritation that you couldn’t explain, you may want to make yourself aware of.
Signs Of Eczema
As mentioned, the common signs of eczema are dry and itchy skin that may appear cracked or scaly. It is often found in the nook of your arms and legs and in the creases of your skin. A major concern with eczema is that it can become infected. Because it can lead to breaks in the skin, bleeding and open wounds, there is a heightened potential that an infection may develop and cause blisters that may be painful. An increasingly great risk for eczema sufferers, which the NHS is more and more campaigning to raise awareness, is toxic shock syndrome and sepsis.
As well as the physical effects of eczema, which can lead to sleepless nights due to the itchiness, is the psychological toll it can take, with people understandably suffering a knock to their confidence due to the appearance of their irritable rashes.
Areas of the skin that are occupied by eczema struggle to retain water and for its cells to produce necessary oils and fats, meaning that the skin’s protective function doesn’t perform as it should, leaving it open to those aforementioned risks of infections.
The common causes range from the psychological (stress) to allergies (to food, skincare products, dust, pollen and animals) to asthma and other pre-existing medical conditions and viral infections.
In the winter months, the weather may be a major cause of a flare of eczema with the cold air drying out your skin and leaving it open to infections.
Fortunately, there are many ways to beat this nasty skin problem – many of which are shop-bought solutions and natural remedies.
Vitamin D deficiency is commonplace in the colder months due to one of the major free sources (the sun) being in small supply. Supplements can help to get you your recommended 5,000 international units on days when eczema flare-ups are bringing you down, and can also help in the longer term with low moods and stress. Studies have found that a vitamin D deficiency may also be the reason for an increased risk of developing eczema during pregnancy.
Elsewhere, research has proven that people who suffer from skin conditions like eczema tend to have a lower level of vitamin D in their systems than those who don’t. Even lower vitamin D levels can result in much more severe conditions.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Following on from vitamin D, which you get from fatty fishes like salmon and mackerel, also featured in the contents of cod liver oil and the likes is omega-3 fatty acids. This has been proven to prevent inflammation as well as boosting your immune system.
Vitamin E helps to maintain healthy skin and eyes, while strengthening your immune system too. The daily recommendation for men is 4mg and women 3mg. The best natural sources include plant oils, wheat germ and nuts and seeds.
Vitamin K is invaluable when it comes to healing wounds due to its role in blood clotting. veg, oils and grains are all top sources of vitamin K, though smaller quantities may be found in meat and dairy. Adults need approximately 1mcg a day of vitamin K for each kilogram of their body weight.
A deficiency of biotin can result in dry skin and scaly rashes around your eyes. By keeping your levels up you can help maintain youthful looking skin and healthy hair and nails.
Coconut oil is one of the most popular moisturisers available in supermarkets and can be a great friend to anyone with dried-out skin, due to its ability to be easily absorbed and replenish damaged skin. It is antibacterial and anti-fungal, meaning it can help with infections, too. Applied twice daily to troublesome areas, it can soothe as well as heal.
Dead Sea Bath Salts
Dead sea bath salts might sound like voodoo witch magic, but researchers are more and more discovering their healing uses, particularly for helping the skin’s barrier function. Poured in a warm (not hot, not cold) bath, the salts can help to reduce the inflammation and lighten the redness of the afflicted flesh.
If you’re looking for a quick fix for the itchiness, a cold wet (but not soaking) compress can calm the irritation. More pro-active solutions include over the counter itch cream, liquorice extract, lavender essential oil and witch hazel.
The logic behind each of these natural cures lies in their alcohol-free (alcohol dries out your skin), anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that will both soothe the inflammation, cool the redness, and calm the itching.