There are triggers for eczema that start the skin on a path to chronic inflammation. This may include stress, environment, dietary triggers, physical irritation of the skin and lifestyle factors.
What is eczema?
Eczema or atopic dermatitis, is an inflammatory skin condition, where the skin thickens and roughens. It is typically itchy, and sometimes can be extremely itchy, creating a scratch-itch cycle that perpetuates the skin lesions.
There are various forms of eczema that can present on the skin with different lesions. Nummular eczema (aka discoid eczema) occurs with coin-shaped lesions and is the most common presentation; however, there are other forms such as dyshidrotic eczema, pompholyx, infantile or adult seborrhea, asteatotic, contact dermatitis and varicose eczema.
What causes eczema?
There is a genetic component to eczema, where a family history of eczema, allergies or asthma can pre-dispose you to sharing the same condition. This is the “atopy” component of eczema.
In eczema, the immune system is “overreactive” and hastens the production of new skin, thereby creating the patchy, thickened appearance, characteristic of eczema.
Certain food or environmental allergens may trigger a hyperreactive response from the immune system, which then presents on the skin. It is important to determine if and to what degree these triggers are contributing to your eczema.
How is eczema treated conventionally?
Conventionally, eczema is treated by a dermatologist or family doctor, who would prescribe a prescription anti-inflammatory topical treatment. This is usually in the form of one of several types of corticosteroid creams. For some patients, this may provide enough relief to clear the skin and keep it clear. But for many other patients, prescription corticosteroids serves to *control* the inflammation of eczema, but not heal it. This means that it will provide temporary relief or improvement, but the eczema will return or aggravate with cessation of the corticosteroids.
How does a naturopathic doctor treat eczema?
From a naturopathic standpoint, there are several variables to assess. Firstly, the diet may play a role in instigating or continuing the inflammatory cycle of the skin. We offer food sensitivity testing to measure antibody levels in the blood to certain plausible trigger foods in your diet. The consumption of these foods can lead to several different symptoms in the body, eczema being a common presentation.
Stress levels must be properly assessed and addressed. This may include discussing personal or environmental stressors, your ability to handle stress, lack of sleep and physical inactivity.
The naturopathic approach also involves providing treatment to target your digestive tract and immune system to optimize their functioning in order for your eczema to heal.
Skin care is also an important component that is often overlooked. Our Naturopathic Doctors will ask you about your past and current skin care regime and assess whether it is appropriate for your skin and your eczema.