Eczema: Frequently Asked Questions
It can be tricky to navigate all of the information regarding eczema diagnosis, triggers and treatments. This guide will answer some of the most frequent questions in an easy to understand format.
A licensed physician who specializes in integrative health wrote the following information, so you will see that many answers seek to provide a holistic perspective on eczematous conditions.
1. Why Did I Get Eczema?
There are a number of risk factors for developing eczema, both environmental and genetic. A family history of eczema, allergic rhinitis (hayfever) or asthma puts you at an increased risk for developing these conditions, commonly referred to as the atopic triad.
Food allergies, particularly in children, can cause eczema skin rashes. Diets low in zinc, essential fatty acids (omega 3 fats in particular), selenium and folic acid have been associated with increased risk for developing eczema. Exposure to cigarette smoke, dust mites, pollen, airborne pollutants and chemical irritants can trigger eczematous eruptions.
2. Is Eczema Curable?
Eczema is treatable and for some individuals, they will have only one outbreak and it will never recur. However, these are a minority of people and usually the eczema is caused by a contact dermatitis (touching something that caused the immune system to react).
About half of children with eczema will outgrow the condition, and an additional 30% will have a lessening of severity. There are both conventional pharmaceutical approaches to eczema treatment and natural therapeutic approaches.
3. What Foods Are Most Likely To Trigger Eczema?
The most common food allergens are also the most likely eczema triggers. Cow’s milk, wheat, soy, citrus fruits, groundnuts & tree nuts, eggs, soy, seafood and chocolate are the most common food triggers.
4. What Treatments Will By Family Doctor Or Dermatologist Offer?
The initial treatment offered by conventional physicians is topical steroids that suppress the immune system’s hyper reactivity.
They can work for some people in the short term, but the eczema usually returns when they are stopped. Topical creams made from calcineurin inhibitors are the second treatment offered. These newer treatments specifically inhibit a type of immune cell called the T cell.
Long-term use of calcineurin inhibitors has been linked with a slightly increased risk of skin cancers and lymphoma in the region where the cream was applied.
Your dermatologist or family doctor may also offer you anti-histamine medication to control itching and topical antibiotics or antifungals to prevent or treat secondary infections (bacteria, viruses or fungi infecting the more susceptible eczematous skin).
5. What Natural Treatments Can Help To Control Eczema?
Natural therapies are used to treat the underlying triggers and conditions that lead to eczema.
Addressing nutritional deficiencies, removing environmental and food allergens or irritants, and reducing inflammation are the most important strategies for achieving permanent resolution of eczema.
6. What Does Eczema Look And Feel Like?
Eczema typically presents as an area of skin that is red, scaling or cracking. The lesions can weep fluid or be very dry. Repeated scratching and rubbing can cause a thickened, leather-like appearance called lichenification.
Most eczema sufferers describe their skin as stinging, burning or itching; with the latter symptom being the most common. Some people describe the lesion as feeling raw or irritated, particularly if it has been previously excoriate from scratching.
7. What Other Skin Conditions Resemble Eczema?
Psoriasis, scabies and seborrheic dermatitis are the skin conditions most often mistaken to be eczema. Seborrheic dermatitis is commonly known as cradle cap or dandruff. It has a greasy appearance and occurs on oily skin surfaces such as the scalp, groin, armpits, sides of the nose and ear canals.
The discharge of seborrheic dermatitis is yellowish in color. The skin can appear reddened but typically less than eczematous lesions. Psoriasis has thick, silvery skin lesions that have a scaly appearance. They tend to occur more on the extensor surfaces of joints, such as the front of the knee and the back of the elbow.
Psoriatic skin lesions bleed when picked or scratched. Arthritic symptoms can accompany psoriasis, causing joint pain and tenderness. Scabies is an infection of the skin caused by a human mite; it is contagious and can be passed by casual contact, sexual contact or shared objects such as towels or personal hygiene products.
Skin infected with scabies is reddened, bumpy and crusted. It most often occurs in the webbing between the fingers, the feet, thighs, genitals or skin folds.
8. Why Do I Get Eczema Only On My Hands?
Eczema affecting only one body part, especially the hands, is most likely being caused by a contact irritant. Frequent hand washing dries and irritates the skin, stripping the tissue of protective oils and making it more susceptible to developing eczema.
Soaps, detergents and cleaning chemicals can cause an allergic response by the body. If you recently developed the hand eczema, check to see if you have changed any household products or cleansers.
Some people have an allergy to latex and wearing gloves made of the material can cause eczematous outbreak of the hands. Keep your hands moisturized and avoid contact with harsh chemicals or drying soaps to help resolve the hand eczema.
9. What Natural Creams Work Best To Eradicate Eczema?
Calendula, chaparral, chamomile and licorice are herbs that have been shown to be effective in reducing eczema symptoms and healing the lesions.
Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D in topical form have been proven to improve eczematous skin. Look for salves and creams made in a base of natural oils such as cocoa, almond, beeswax or apricot oils.
They are soothing and nontoxic. It is possible to have an allergy to natural ingredients, although someone less likely than to novel chemicals. Always patch test a cream before using it over large surface areas.
10. What Foods Are Good For Skin And Immune Health?
Fatty fish, walnuts, flax and omega 3 eggs are good sources of essential fatty acids that are needed to keep skin moist and provide a protective barrier against insults.
Asian mushrooms such as maitake, reishi and shitake provide immune system support in the form of beta-glucans, polysaccharides that signal the immune system to activate when needed but not overreact.
Yogurt, sauerkraut, sour cream, kim chi and other cultured foods supply the digestive tract with beneficial bacteria.
They promote secretion of immune IgA immunoglobulins that coat the intestine and prevent insults from irritating the immune system. Probiotics have shown benefit in both the prevention and treatment of eczema.
Darkly pigmented fruits and vegetables are a rich food source of bioflavonoid, compounds that act as anti-oxidants, scavenging free radicals and decreasing inflammation. They also improve blood vessels health and wound healing.
This Eczema FAQ section answered the most common eczema questions but this skin condition is quite complex and it’s sometimes challenging to find reliable answers.
Please refer to our sections on food allergies, environmental triggers, and detoxification for more comprehensive treatment plans.
You can also learn more about the physiology of eczema in our understanding eczema and signs & symptoms of eczema articles.