Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition in which the skin becomes very dry with patches of redness that can be intensely itchy. The patches can turn hard or become scaly and crusted with occasional oozing. The severity of eczema can range greatly and cover any part of the body. Symptoms can fluctuate from completely clear skin to a rash that is so itchy that people scratch until it bleeds. In adults eczema is most commonly found on the elbows and knees, while in babies it is often seen on the cheeks and chin.
What are the most common causes of eczema?
In Western medicine the cause of eczema is unknown, although there seem to be relationships with genetic, environmental, and immune factors. Symptoms fluctuate in severity and can move around to various areas of the body. Flare ups can have no trigger at all or they can also follow periods of stress, sweating, overheating as well as eating certain foods, contact with various cosmetic products, and allergens.
Standard Western medical treatments
Doctors often recommend tracking what triggers the eczema so those things can be avoided, thus minimizing the number of flare-ups. Another common recommendation is to keep the skin moisturized, either with over the counter moisturizers or prescription corticosteroid creams or ointments to reduce itching and repair skin. In more severe cases when the skin is damaged antibiotics may be prescribed to fight infection. Other options include anti-itching drugs, or drugs to control inflammation.
There is currently no cure for eczema. Patients will typically experience periods of flare-up and remission over the course of their life, although children may grow out of it with time. With proper monitoring and management, some people can achieve good control and overall quality of life.
How can Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture treat eczema?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) recognizes that all part of the body are connected and that problems on the outside like eczema can reflect internal imbalances. In TCM the skin is an extension of the internal environment of the body and one possible indicator of organ health. When internal heat, dampness, and toxins are trapped in certain organs they can get pushed to the surface, manifesting as a red, itchy, purulent rash or skin flare-up. In other cases internal heat can dry up some of the body fluids leaving the skin dry, cracked, and discoloured.
A TCM treatment will seek to bring the body back into balance by resolving the root of the internal problem while also decreasing or eliminating the symptoms. In eczema cases this means that the number of flare ups, their severity, redness, exudation, and the intensity of the itching should all decrease with the appropriate amount of treatments.
How can Acupuncture help treat eczema?
Acupuncture can stimulate endorphins, decrease stress, and promote overall well being to decrease flare ups of eczema in addition to modulating nerve pain and decreasing itchiness. In a 2010 study, it was found that “Acupuncture at the correct points showed a significant reduction in type I hypersensitivity itch in patients with atopic eczema.”.
How can Herbal Medicine help treat eczema?
TCM treatment using herbal medicines are usually the best modality for eczema cases as they can balance internal problems more effectively. Each patient’s case is unique, so a slightly different combination of herbs is used in each formula and modifications are made as the patient’s condition changes (or to accommodate other medications). The goal of herbal treatment is to reduce the symptoms of eczema as much as possible and prevent any recurrent episodes once treatment has concluded.
If you or a loved one are affected by eczema, please do not hesitate to contact us to find out if/how Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can benefit you.