Please note this is an updated post. But you’re welcome to read it again!
Table of Contents
Facts about Eczema.
Eczema, also known as ‘Atopic Dermatitis’ is characterised by dry, itchy, red patches and blisters that flare up across your body when your immune system overreacts to a trigger. The usual areas on your body that’s affected are hands, insides of elbows, backs of knees and sadly, on faces and scalps of children. It is not 1 specific skin condition.
Worldwide, it affects between 15 to 20% of children and 1 to 3% of adults.
Unfortunately, the itching and discomfort can be so intense, it can keep people awake at night, leaving them feeling exhausted and unable to function during the day.
Some people become embarrassed because of how their skin looks. In fact, a survey conducted by the National Eczema Society showed that 91% of the respondents said it makes them feel self-conscious and embarrassed.
It is not contagious.
If both your parents have it, then there is an 80% chance that you could develop it as well. Often, a baby can develop it before their first birthday. A family history of asthma and hay fever is also linked to eczema. In fact, up to 80% of children with eczema can develop those two conditions. There is no definitive reason why though, it’s thought that the weakened skin barrier can make it easier for allergens like pollen, dust, pet fur and mould to enter their bodies.
There is no cure.
Scratching can make it worse.
Causes of Eczema.
Triggers are unique to each individual.
For some, it’s cigarette smoke, perfumes, household cleaners, shampoos, wool and polyester.
For others, the weather can cause flare-ups. Like either the weather changing to cold, dry conditions or hot and humid ones.
Stress can also trigger flare-ups.
Historical facts about Eczema.
The Ancient Egyptians used to treat rashes with tar. The Ebers Papyrus, circa 1500 BCE, describes concoctions of onion and bean-based topical poultices and injections (!) of fresh milk and sea salt, also to treat eczema.
Around 400 BCE, Hippocrates described it as a ‘cutaneous rectification of internal humoral imbalances.’ This belief was supported in a text written by an Italian physician called Mercurialis in 1572.
A Roman poet, Suetonius, describes the symptoms of eczema that Emperor Augustus had.
Avicenna, a Persian physician (980-1037 CE) wrote a text known as ‘Canon of Medicine’ that contained many conditions and treatments which are consistent with today’s understanding of eczema.
In the early 1800s, doctors Willan and Bateman devised the term ‘eczema.’ It originates from the Greek ‘ekzein’ which means to ‘boil over’ or ‘break out.’
How to Manage Eczema.
If your dry, itchy skin can’t be treated with moisturiser, then see your doctor. He or she could prescribe topical ointments with steroids and other medications.
Other actions you could take include:-
- Keep your skin clean and moisturised, as much as you can.
- Take warm showers, not hot ones as they could dry out your skin. Moisturise immediately after them.
- Find ways of relieving your stress
- Avoid skincare products that contain sodium lauryl sulphate, talc, lanolin, propylene glycol and phthalates.
In the US, a drug called ‘lebrikizumab’ has been proven to be effective in treating eczema in teenagers and adults in 2 clinical trials.
While in the UK, an injection called ‘Dupilumab’ may be available on the NHS but you would have to be referred to a specialist dermatologist.
Hopefully, these treatments are available at the time of writing this post.
Foods to eat.
Anti-inflammatory foods may help. These include:-
- Foods that contain Omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, chia seeds, seaweed, flax seeds and walnuts, for example.
- Foods that contain a powerful antioxidant known as quercetin. This flavonoid helps to give many flowers, fruit and vegetables their colours. Quercetin is also a powerful antihistamine and can be found in foods such as apples, blueberries, cherries, kale, broccoli and spinach. Also, red wine contains quercetin.
- Probiotics like yoghurts that contain live cultures can help to support a strong immune system. They could reduce flare-ups or allergic reactions. Other foods that contain probiotics are sourdough bread, miso soup, naturally fermented pickles, soft cheeses like Gouda, unpasteurised sauerkraut, kefir and tempeh.
- Manuka honey because of its antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic properties.
Foods to avoid.
You could try cutting out; one at a time, the common food allergies associated with eczema like cow’s milk, eggs, soy products, gluten, nuts, fish, shellfish, citrus fruits and – please don’t hate me – chocolate!
Foods high in sugar may also trigger flare-ups. This is because sugar causes your insulin levels to spike which can cause inflammation.
Foods that contain preservatives and artificial ingredients may worsen symptoms; such as foods high in trans fats like margarine, some processed foods and fast foods.
Do you suffer from eczema? Have you tried any of the above strategies? Let me know in the comments section below.
Sources: mentalfloss.com, clevelandclinic.org, harger.com, dermatologytimes.com, practical dermatology.com, healthline.com, nuffieldhealth.com, medicalnewstoday.com