Focus on: eczema

Skin Analysis
11 Jul 2014

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Eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema) affects many children and adults worldwide. Eczema is a very common condition and is increasing in prevalence, nearly tripling in industrialized countries over the past three decades.

The word eczema comes from the Greek word ‘ekzein’ which means ‘to boil’. Eczema is a highly individual dry skin condition in that it varies from person to person and comes in many different forms. In mild cases the skin is dry, scaly, red and itchy while in more severe cases there may be weeping, crusting and bleeding. Constant scratching causes the skin to split and bleed and also leaves it open to infection.

Eczema affects people of all ages but is primarily seen in children. Recent prevalence estimates demonstrate that 15?30% of children are affected by the condition. Those who ?grow out? of their eczema during early childhood may see it recur again in later life.

Types of eczema
Skin affected by eczema is more liable to become red and inflamed upon contact with substances that are known to irritate or cause an allergic reaction. There are a number of different types of eczema which include:

Atopic eczema: the term ?atopic? refers to a personal and family tendency to develop eczema, asthma and/or hay fever.

Contact dermatitis is the most common type of work-related skin disease.

Seborrhoeic eczema tends to affect the scalp, face, torso and flexures in both adults and children or babies.

Discoid eczema is very distinct, with ?coin shaped? discs of eczema the size of a fifty pence piece.

Gravitational eczema, also called varicose or stasis eczema, is common later in life.

Asteatotic eczema, also known as ?eczema cracquel?e?, almost always affects people over the age of 60.

Pompholyx eczema, characterised by blistering of the hands and feet.

Causes of eczema
The causes of eczema are largely unclear and treatments are geared largely around restoring the barrier function of the dry skin typical of eczema and alleviating skin inflammation with topical and systemic agents. However, eczema bears very much the hallmarks of a chronic, relapsing form of skin inflammation, with a disturbance of the epidermal-barrier function and IgE-mediated sensitization to foods and environmental allergens.

It is often the first step of the ?atopic march? that may lead to the development of allergic rhinitis and asthma. Thus, early identification of risk factors and possible intervention strategies may lead to the discovery of measures that lessen the later appearance of allergic diseases.

Eczema is a genetic condition based on the interaction between a number of genes and environmental factors. In most cases there will be a family history of either eczema or one of the other ?atopic? conditions, i.e. asthma or hay fever.

Eczema results from a complex interaction between the host (genetic susceptibility and skin barrier dysfunction) and environmental factors (allergens, irritants and infectious agents). There are two predominant groups of genes that have been associated with eczema: genes encoding epidermal structural proteins and genes encoding major elements of the immune system, especially those important in allergic sensitization.

In patients with early-onset eczema, IgE-mediated sensitization often occurs several weeks or months after the lesions appear, suggesting that the skin is the site of sensitization.

Recently, it has been proposed that the natural history of eczema has three phases, including a first and initial non-atopic phase in early infancy, when sensitization has not yet occurred; secondly (in 60?80% of patients), genetic predisposition results in the induction of IgE-mediated sensitization to foods and/or environmental allergens leading to eczema; and thirdly, scratching damages skin cells releasing auto-antigens and leading to IgE autoantibodies.

Food and inhalant allergens, as well as microbial agents, contribute to eczema; however, the environmental and genetic factors that protect and contribute remain largely unclear.

Natural eczema treatments
Treatments for eczema in mainstream medicine appear to alleviate the condition only intermittently. Phytomedicine (a natural approach to treatment) uses the following medicinal herbs for topical use on eczema:

Calendula officinalis, often used in externally-applied products for the treatment of inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, cuts, bruises, burns and scalds, as well as conjunctivitis.

German chamomile is used internally as an anti-inflammatory agent for many gastrointestinal disturbances and nervous disorders, the latter being an important element in the treatment of eczema. Topically, German chamomile is widely used to counteract inflammatory skin conditions, including atopic eczema.

Marshmallow is a very useful medicinal herb as its soothing demulcent properties make it very effective in treating inflammations and irritations of the mucous membranes, as well as the treatment of the epidermis in atopic eczema. The whole plant, but especially the root, is demulcent and highly emollient. The root can be used in an ointment for treating boils and abscesses.

Liquorice – the dried root and stolons are used topically as an anti-inflammatory agent.

Chickweed is chiefly used to treat irritated skin, being applied in the form of an ointment or cream. Chickweed is used to alleviate pruritus, hence it is frequently added to topical eczema prescriptions for eczema and other inflammatory skin conditions. Chickweed works particularly well in combination with German chamomile due to its strong anti-inflammatory properties and has proven very successful in the treatment of mild to chronic eczema.

Food allergies and eczema
Although topical treatment for eczema performs a vital role, it is important not to ignore the recent NICE guidelines on the recognition and management of food allergy and the history of any allergies in children and young people.

A combination of an allergy-focused case history, IgE mediated allergy blood tests to identify potential food or other external allergies and topical anti-inflammatory and skin barrier-restoring agents currently provide the best possible outcome for patients suffering from eczema.

Natural eczema treatment at the Claudia Louch Natural Skin Clinic
The Claudia Louch Natural Skin Clinic is different to other skin specialists in that it takes a completely natural and comprehensive inside-out approach to eczema (and all other skin conditions treated), to harness the body?s own immune system and healing potential.

Uniquely, the Claudia Louch Natural Skin Clinic assesses each patient?s condition on an individual basis rather than using generic methods. The clinic?s main aim is to investigate the underlying cause of your eczema to therefore treat the source of the symptoms, rather than just treating the symptoms alone.

Personalised natural skin care and treatments at the Claudia Louch Natural Skin Clinic
Any eczema skincare provided will be completely bespoke-made by the Claudia Louch Natural Skin Clinic Phyto-Pharmacy to your skin?s own requirements, to maximise results. This includes natural soap substitutes and emollients, customised phytomedical anti-inflammatory skin treatments and bespoke natural immune support.

click here to make an appointment enquiry at the Claudia Louch Natural Skin Clinic or call us on 020 7467 1539.

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